What is Cyberbullying?

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By Sabrina Brandon Ricks, SBR Workplace Leadership Services

Cyberbullying has only been introduced over the past decade, thanks to advancements in technology and implementation of technology throughout school systems and the workforce. Cyberbullying is repeated mistreatment via electronic means, such as inappropriate text messages, email, instant messaging, social media postings, and internal school and work programs that create a hostile work environment.

Although laws have been implemented on a state level to protect school-age individuals from cyberbullying, there is no protection in the workplace. These leaves many employers and employees in a vulnerable position. Mistreatment can go under the radar and create an unacknowledged hostility that impacts the workplace.

Manifestations of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can manifest in the workplace in many ways, especially as many organizations offer remote working options. One manifestation is via employee emails to one another. For example, emails can be misinterpreted. Or, they can be outright malicious, such as “You better make us look good in today’s meeting or else.”

Another manifestation is via text messaging. It’s a major problem if you receive a text from a co-worker saying, “If you don’t secure this next client with our big client, you’re going to pay for this.” Additionally, blog postings where someone is defamed or attacked in any capacity would be considered cyberbullying. In today’s society, it is easy to behave in this manner. People are more likely to feel more comfortable typing a message than making these comments to someone face-to-face.

Management’s Role

It is up to management to be proactive in monitoring and determining what cyberbullying looks like in their organizations and how to address it. First, policies and procedures have to be implemented in the employee handbook to acknowledge the behavior. Consequences must be instituted for those who partake in this type of behavior. Second, when a policy or procedure is broken, action must follow. If the policy was that a verified cyberbullying complaint would result in a write up, as a preliminary action, then a write up must take place for employees to take the ruling seriously.

Training

An example of one or two employees may be enough to prevent this behavior from continuing to develop in the workplace. However, there is also a need for educating your employees via training sessions, workshops, and more. A one-time training is not enough. Training must be continuous (such as semi-annually or annually) to be kept top of mind.

SBR Workplace Leadership Services offer sessions virtually and in-person to meet the needs of organizations small and large. You can sign up for a consultation or to book a training here. Don’t wait until cyberbullying has occurred and your organization is reacting to a complaint! Be proactive and get ahead of any complaints.

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