August 6th, 2013
Has one of your coworkers posted a malicious comment about you on Twitter or threatened you on chat or in an email? You aren’t alone. Bullying is an epidemic affecting an estimated 54 million American workers, according to a study conducted by Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention. A Zogby International poll found that half of the American workforce has either experienced or witnessed bullying at work.
While workplace bullying can be defined as verbal abuse, conduct that threatens or intimidates an employee and sabotage, cyberbullying has potential to be even more hurtful. It’s easier, because the attacker doesn’t have to see the victim face to face; there are a variety of different attack methods, and it’s anonymous. Some forms of cyberbullying include hateful, threatening emails, offensive content like explicit images and jokes, copying electronic communications to a group to publicly shame an individual, sharing embarrassing photos of an individual and social media gossip.
Facebook and Twitter often serve as platforms that allow cyberbullies to slander, demean and harass their coworkers outside of the office. For example, estranged partners often turn to social media to expose personal photos or sensitive emails between the two in order to gain the upper hand.
Why is cyberbullying so prevalent? In this competitive workforce, demeaning others’ values, identity or work performance builds them up (in their eyes) to gain professional stature.
But there is no room for cyberbullying in the workplace. It demotivates employees, reduces productivity and causes absenteeism. If the victim feels safe enough, he should have a face-to-face conversation with the cyberbully. Sometimes, it could be that what he took offensively was not meant to be; we all work with people who are difficult, but mean no real harm.
Communication is a powerful tool that can easily save business relationships (and personal relationships too, of course). A fierce conversation sets the stage for change, promotes collaboration, improves decision making, deepens accountability and strengthens relationships while tackling tough issues.
If you can’t resolve the issue on your own, talk to someone from the human resources department or a manager. Most businesses have a code of conduct policy and hopefully, with the growing epidemic of bullying at the workplace, a specific section is dedicated to the problem in the employee handbook.
If the bully is persistent, block his or her phone number (it’s usually free) and block them on your social networking sites. Speak to your work’s IT department, as well, to block incoming emails, or change your email address.
Cyberbullying can lead to other avenues of harassment. If your personal information is being broadcast online, it could get worse. With the smallest amount of information, identity thieves can get into your accounts and wipe you out before you know what hit you. Visit LifeLock on Facebook to see horror stories of data breaches and how an identity thief can ruin your life.