Cyberbullying is often associated with children and schools, but it’s a growing problem in the workplace too. The reality is that it DOES exist in many businesses and can lead your business to become a hostile work environment that damages morale, hurts productivity and even drives valued employees out the door.
Definition – Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is the use of cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail or social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass, threaten or intimidate someone.
A recent study by VitalSmarts, a leadership consultancy, polled nearly 3,000 people on the topic of workplace bullying. A stunning 96% of respondents indicated they’d been bullied in the workplace. The study also revealed that 62% of bullying came in the form of sabotaging work and/or the reputation of co-workers and 52% reported ‘browbeating, threats and intimidation’.
Cyberbullies, or “trolls”, are people who intentionally provoke others online by ranting, using inflammatory or offensive language or spreading falsehoods or half-truths just to get a reaction from or to intimidate an individual or organization. Allowing that kind of behavior to exist can drive valuable employees out of your business.
What can you do to stop Cyber Bullying?
- Establish a clear “Appropriate Use Policy” that details how company resources may be used and how employees are expected to behave on Social Media as it relates to your business and its employees or clients. Make sure you define consequences for unacceptable behavior by your staff to show how serious you take Cyber-bullying or any other kind of abusive actions.
- Define ‘bullying’, ‘harassment’ and ‘inappropriate behavior’ in your HR policies and ensure all employees are trained in what to look for and how to report issues. Don’t forget regular refreshers.
- Be on the lookout for persistent retention issues. If a lot of people leave one department or group, you have a problem, and it probably involves some kind of harassment or bullying.
- Make sure you define a clear path for reporting bullying and encourage your staff to report any instances they observe or experience.
- Take swift corrective action when bullying is exposed. Make it clear bullies aren’t rewarded – in fact, exactly the opposite. Turning a blind eye to a bully will encourage him or her.
To summarize, Cyber-bullying or any kind of intimidation can create a hostile workplace for your business. In today’s connected world, word travels fast. Not only victims of bullying suffer but so can the reputation of your business.
About the author: Jeff Hoffman is President of ACT Network Solutions, author of the book “Intruders At The Gate, A Guide For Protecting Your Business From Hackers” and a member of the Executive Advisory Council for IT Security at CompTIA, the leading worldwide IT industry association.