Traditional bullying transcends more into virtual forms, giving birth to cyberbullying. Studies on cyberbullying focus more on the abusive behaviors and actions and the consequences of such. But now is the perfect time to determine how to respond to cyberbullying, especially in the workplace.
If a cyberbully is currently victimizing you, here are some steps to respond to cyberbullying in the workplace setting.
Cyberbullying is more associated with schools and young adults. However, the employers must also be aware that employees who received or are currently receiving offensive email messages, chat messages, phone calls, and text messages from co-workers or customers are victims of workplace cyberbullying. Workplace cyberbullying increases due to the firm’s reliance on interoperable technologies, including email and messenger.
Here’s how to respond to workplace bullying in a more effective manner.
Ways to respond to workplace bullying
If you are the employee, you should:
1) Gather the workplace cyberbullying evidence
Electronic information can be stored. Cyberbullying thereby has an essential element of permanence. The information is often difficult to remove, especially on social media sites. While such permanence is very painful for the victim of bullying behaviors, the information can be used in documenting the behavior and trace the perpetrator. So, keep a journal of events indicating the exact date, time, and location.
Save, print, and keep a copy of all the pieces of evidence, including messages, posts, and comments. Save them on your computer, smartphone, USB, memory card, etc. Due to the surge of emotions, our initial reaction is to ignore or delete the messages. You cannot complain to your boss that you are a cyberbullying victim if you cannot present proof. So, make sure that you document everything. Keep the documents relevant by not exaggerating the details.
2) Report the incidence of workplace cyberbullying
There must be clear and proper reporting procedures. The common hierarchy is reporting to the team leader, manager, supervisor, or department head. However, there are instances that the bully is the boss, manager, co-worker, etc. You can, nevertheless, report the incident directly to the employer. When reporting, though, include all the copies of your proofs. If the employer is unwilling to cooperate or unresponsive or the perpetrator himself, you may consider filing a police report.
Contacting the police is more necessary if the acts of cyberbullying include harassment and threats. Death and physical violence threats are against the law. Thus, they must be reported at once. Report any harassment, especially those that are continuous and lasts for a certain period. Include all the proofs and correspondence when filing the report. Specifically, you should report to the police anonymously. Often, the police have all the necessary tools and types of equipment in tracking the doer.
You may also report to the ISP (Internet Service Provider) if the cyberbullying occurs through your personal devices. Some employers chose not to meddle with cyberbullying situations that occur beyond the workplace. So, it is plausible to report the cyberbully to the ISP. If the bullying occurs while using a social network, you may also report or block the perpetrator. This brings us to the next action.
3) Cut all communication with the cyberbully
Before you do so, communicate with the bully most openly and honestly that you found the messages or comments offensive. It must be clear that you are offended by the other party’s actions. Ask him or her to stop it. If he or she insists on doing the bullying acts, take the case to the proper venue and move to the higher chain of command.
Consequently, report the bully to the site itself if you are on Facebook, unfriend, and block the user. Un-follow the user if you are on Twitter. You may also choose to close/deactivate/delete your account. However, be reminded that the perpetrator may always look for new ways or platforms to bully you. Anyway, we are talking about cyberbullying, which means aggression and harassment occur in the virtual world.
If the company has filtering software that allows you to communicate with the persons on your ‘safe’ list, use it.
4) Respond to any cyberbullying behavior wisely
Sometimes, the best way is to refrain from responding. Cyberbullies aim at getting responses, so don’t give them one. On the other hand, there are instances when responding more compassionately is needed, especially when your work/employment is involved. When a boss or co-worker attacks you, gather your thoughts first. Calm yourself first before responding. In this way, you are not going to react in anger. Instead, respond to the attacker more reasonably.
If possible, approach and talk to your attacker in person but in the presence of another co-worker. Personal conversation removes the emotional ambiguities inherent in the Internet. Nevertheless, do not shout, curse, and accuse the person; otherwise, the entire office will witness the heated exchange of angry words between the two of you.
How the cyberbully chooses to attack you is beyond your control. However, you can decide how to respond to online attacks. Think about the proper way of handling the situation. You can report or request to be transferred to another department. It would be best if you psyched yourself first before making any move.
Cyberbullying has many consequences, one of which is the inability to perform optimally. However, quitting your present job will not and will never be the solution to bullying. You will only give your attacker the chance of controlling you and attacking another co-worker in the future.
Further, cyberbullying at work impacts an employee on various levels:
- The immediate impact is diminished psychological and physical health and overall wellbeing.
- The continued abuse results in lower levels of self-esteem which also affects personal relationships.
- The further abuse affects productivity level and thus future career advancements.
If you are the employer, you must:
Review Internet, email, and social media policy
Any workplace must establish a cyberbullying prevention program, part of which should be dedicated to the policies regarding the use of the Internet, email, and social media. Employers can develop their own Internet, email, and social media policies or incorporate them into the existing ones. The policies should provide guidelines on how to use these communication tools appropriately.
Further, the policy must apply to all employees at all times in their capacities as professionals. The employees must be prohibited to utilize the Internet, email, and social media in discussing or commenting on the physical appearance of other employees; making offensive or discriminatory comments about other employees; making inferences about other employee’s gender, age, race, sexual preference and disability; and communicating abusive or offensive languages.
Consistently, remind the employees that they are entirely responsible for how they conduct themselves on the Internet, email, and social media. This can be done through memos or email newsletters and during meetings and small business gatherings. Once any of them breaches any clause in the policy, the employer or the department having jurisdiction may take disciplinary actions, including the suspension or termination of the employment.
Cyberbullying is almost always serious. Nevertheless, you need not put up with workplace cyberbullying. There are many ways that you can stop cyberbullying. Consider this list as a guide in responding to a cyberbully more appropriately.