Think cyberbullying is only something teenagers experience? You might be surprised.
Workplace cyberbullying is probably more common than you think. A study by the University of Sheffield and Nottingham University showed that 8 out of 10 adults had experienced cyberbullying in the workplace in the previous six months, and 14-20% of people had been a victim of cyberbullying in the past week.
Research also suggests that workplace cyberbullying can be linked to emotional problems, decreased job satisfaction, poor workplace performance, and reduced physical and mental well-being.
Unfortunately, knowing how to spot and respond to cyberbullying is one of the key skills you’ll need to thrive in the workplace of the future. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the primary tactics cyberbullies use, and give you some strategies for dealing with this common workplace issue.
What Is Workplace Cyberbullying?
When bullying happens online, it’s called cyberbullying – and when that behavior occurs in the office, it’s known as workplace cyberbullying. It is typically defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior by a group or individual toward another group or individual.
Workplace cyberbullying can take many forms, including:
● Posting or sharing false, negative, or harmful content about someone
● Social media campaigns or other online content that disparages the victim
● Offensive or threatening emails
● Doxing, or publicly publishing personal information like someone’s home address
● Digital impersonation or creating a false identity or fake online profile using the target’s image and photos
● Making false accusations
● Spreading lies or gossip
● Unwanted sexual harassment or sexual advances
● Encouraging self-harm or suicide
Workplace cyberbullying can occur in or out of the office, using any electronic means like phone calls, social media, Slack, or text messages. Some cyberbullying crosses into criminal behavior.
How to Combat Cyberbullying at Work
There are steps you can take to protect yourself if you are being cyberbullied at work.
Try these tactics to help you deal with bullying behavior:
- Do not respond immediately. No matter how hurt or angry you feel, take a moment to gather your thoughts before responding or taking any action.
- If you know the person's identity, you can try speaking with them directly and letting them know their behavior is offensive or harmful. Tell them directly that the bullying needs to end. In some cases, bullies may not realize the harm they are inflicting.
- If bullying persists, speak with a manager or union representative. Tell them the details of what is happening, and ask directly for support. Most companies have strict policies about using the internet and email at work, and a person might be dismissed if they have grossly violated company policy.
- Block the bully on your phone and on social networking sites.
- Print and keep screenshots or copies of all the harassing or bullying messages, tweets, comments, or posts. Without evidence, you have no proof of the cyberbullying.
- Contact the police if the bullying continues, or if you receive threatening messages. You may be able to get a protective order that will legally stop the person from contacting you. All threats of physical violence or death are against the law, and should be taken seriously.
If you are being bullied, you do not need to suffer in silence. Statistics show that as many as 1 in 5 employees has been the victim of bullying in the workplace, and your employers should adopt a zero-tolerance policy that protects workers.