Cyberbullying in the Workplace

Updated: 2013.05.13

A recent study reports that cyberbullying is pervasive within the workplace.

A new study by the University of Sheffield and Nottingham University has shown that 8 out of 10 people have experienced cyberbullying at the workplace in the last six months. The research also has shown that 14 – 20 percent of people felt they been victim of cyberbullying at least once a week.

What is workplace cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is just like traditional workplace bullying and harassment in the workplace, but involving electronic devices and online communications. A report by the consulting firm CQR states that cyberbullying includes but not limited to:

  • Malicious or threatening emails, text messages, and tweets
  • Electronic communications that contain jokes about ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other topic that would make an individual uncomfortable
  • Public shaming via a mass email
  • Sharing embarrassing, offensive, or manipulated images or videos of an individual
  • Spreading lies and gossip – social networking sites and blogs are usually the most common ways people become victim of another person’s cyberbullying.”

Why employers should be concerned:

The website bullyingstatistics.org states that workplace bullying has serious negative effects on employees and the business. Employees that are bullied may experience stress, low productivity, anxiety, trouble with relationships, health problems, and absenteeism.

The workplace could experience high turnover costing the organization money in hiring and training new employees, low productivity, and difficulty hiring quality employees as word spreads of the toxic work environment. The organization could be opening itself to legal action if it encourages this behavior or does not do anything to stop it.

What should employers do to prevent cyberbullying:

Again from CQR:

  • Promote a work culture where all bullying is not tolerated
  • Establish a clear written and well communicated policy regarding bullying and acceptable use of technology
  • Provide training for staff and management in how to deal with bullying in the workplace
  • Remind staff that anything posted on the internet is out of their control is and potentially there forever.
  • Remind people to stop and review an email before sending and consider the reaction of the receiver.
  • Encourage people to talk to each other rather than continuing the disagreement over email. A face to face conversation will remove the emotional ambiguity of email.

What to do if you are the victim of workplace cyberbullying:

First, know that what you are experiencing is not your fault and there is help. Contact your office HR or Employee Assistance Program for advice.

Second, read this action plan and related resources from the Workplace Bullying Institute. This website provides resources and helpful information on how to identify and deal with a workplace bully.

Contact NUPD or your local law enforcement agency if you feel threatened. From the NUPD website: “Annoying, harassing or obscene telephone calls, text messages and e-mails are illegal. University Police can assist you in minimizing and eliminating these annoyances.”

More Information

Fore more information on Workplace bullying: Workplacebullying.org – “To understand, correct, and prevent all abuse at work”

Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior – What Everyone Needs to Know

Employers Beware: Cyber-Bullying Could Wreak Havoc in Your Workplace

Workplace bullying related books

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