How to Recognize and Handle Cyberbullying in the Workplace
Cyberbullying should never be tolerated, but it may be hard to recognize—especially in the workplace. Learn how to identify the signs and understand how to handle it once it is detected.
It’s important to recognize the signs that an employee may be experiencing cyberbullying, which should never be tolerated in the workplace. Signs of cyberbullying are often subtle. Managers and company owners need to know how to recognize these signs, how to handle the situation and how to utilize methods of prevention.
Let’s start with the definition of cyberbullying. Essentially, cyberbullying is a method of bullying or trying to inflict psychological harm to someone, through the internet or other means of cybercommunication. While we tend to think of it as something that usually happens to children or teenagers, it actually can happen to anyone of any age. It is a means of threatening someone using social media or on-line technology. It is also used as a way to demean someone. Cyberbullying can be motivated by many things including revenge, boredom, or a lack of empathy. Additionally, because it’s usually anonymous, it’s often motivated by a person who is feeling invincible. In a work situation, it is often used to deal with jealousy, for sabotage or revenge.
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Cyberbullying generally involves threats or mean comments that are clearly meant to hurt someone. Making fun of someone on-line in a cruel and hurtful way is a classic form of cyberbullying. People who cyberbully feel powerful and confident because they are doing it anonymously.
The main forms of cyberbullying are:
• Harassing someone
• Impersonating someone
• Photo harassment
• Creating websites, blogs or other means of hurting someone thru social media channels
Cyberbullying is most likely a situation that occurs when a person is being threatened, humiliated, embarrassed, tormented and hurt by another person using text messaging, e-mails, or any other type of digital technologies. Cyberbullies often post humiliating information.
Some signs that an employee is being cyberbullied include:
• Exhibiting frustration, anger, or anxiety
• Having insomnia
• Exhibiting performance or productivity issues
• Being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
• Being very secretive or protective of one's digital life
• Withdrawal from other employees
• Avoiding workplace gatherings
• Eating lunch or taking breaks alone
The biggest difference between cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying is that the internet is available 24/7 and it can be invasive and inescapable. In a business situation, employees are protected by federal law if subjected to a hostile working environment, so it is incumbent upon you to make sure that they feel safe at work and this includes feeling safe on-line as well.
You need to be aware of the frequency and severity of the unwelcome conduct, whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, if it is interfering with work performance, if it is having a negative effect on the employee's psychological well-being, and whether the alleged harasser is their manager or superior within your company.
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What you can do to help prevent cyberbullying is to offer employees and management intensive training about all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying. They need to know it is unacceptable in your company and will not be tolerated. Make sure that you clearly state the penalties for this behavior. It is no different than training employees about sexual harassment or any other unacceptable behavior. You also need to create a culture that allows a victim to feel comfortable coming forward to report cyberbullying, just as you would for any other form of bullying. And make it known that cyberbullying will not be tolerated in your workplace. It is an important and very positive message for you to send.
President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at email@example.com.