As businesses move to working remotely in the midst of COVID-19, reports of cyber bullying and online discrimination have been on the increase. While we tend to think that cyber bullying only happens to kids, it is clear that Cyber Bullying has become a known work health and safety issue. It can affect mental health in the workplace and leave employees off for a compensatable injury. In this article we look at some tips to prevent cyber bullying in the work place.
What is Cyber bullying in the workplace?
According to Australia’s e Safety Commissioner, Cyber bullying behavior might include:
- abusive texts and emails
- hurtful messages, images or videos
- imitating others online
- excluding others online
- humiliating others online
- spreading nasty online gossip and chat
- creating fake accounts to trick someone or humiliate them
But cyber bullying goes deeper and also extends to issues such as an invasion of the privacy of an individual through work means.
When can cyber bullying become a workplace issue?
It seems all too often recently. There’s some well published events in the media.
The CEO of direct-to-consumer luggage company, Away, was outed for bullying behavior, when she used harsh language dressing down an employee on the company’s Slack channel.
The idea that cyber bullying exists and needs to be addressed has only recently begun to gain traction among the public. Unfortunately, progress that has been made has often been at the expense of employees at different companies who have been poorly treated or even terminated.
Certainly, across Australia has work health and safety laws against workplace bullying, but it is often found difficult to enforce these laws. It’s a murky area for workplaces.
For this reason, employees only rarely see much justice for their complaints. Additionally, since there is no standardised methodology for managing and investigating bullying complaints sometimes they can be treated differently in different locations by different work health and safety regulators.
Your company may or may not have a policy in place to address bullying behavior, but managers and employers should still talk about how cyber bullying and online discrimination aren’t to be taken lightly. Employees should hear about how these behaviors are likely to attract consequences. Cyber bullying should be treated the same as bullying reported in the office. Employees should have different ways of reporting these incidents, and they should be taken just as seriously as in-office bullying.
If your company has employees working from home, it would be a good idea to protect them against cyber bullying by putting clear rules in place. Here’s our tips!
Set up an easy reporting process
Employees should know exactly how and where to report a cyberbullying incident. The process should be well-publicized, and complaints should be quickly responded to. The company should have a response process in place in which witnesses are interviewed, documentation is reviewed, and conclusions are drawn. In addition, if cyberbullying is determined to have occurred, management should make sure that corrective measures are taken.
Most cyberbullying complaints are made on anonymous hotlines. These should be provided. When companies take anonymous complaints seriously, the anonymity can encourage people to step forward.
Make your cyber bullying policies easily accessible
Employees may not recognize cyber bullying for what it is, or understand that they have the power to act against what they go through. It can help to familiarize them with various examples of cyber bullying. Examples are viewable on the Australian Government website of Bullying No Way
Educating employees about how they are protected by the company’s cyber bullying policies can help them understand they do have a way to find help when they are bullied. When incidents occur, they won’t need to suffer silently, and have their performance deteriorate.
In a time when most office workers work from home, workplace cyber bullying ends up occurring in the home, and can affect not only how employees perform at work, but also the way they are able to unwind and restore themselves after work. They lose their safe buffer.
For cyber bullying policies to be effective, they need to offer clear paths that employees are able to take when incidents occur. For instance, if employees are instructed to report incidents to their direct manager, and if their direct manager is the bully they need to report, policy guidelines should offer an alternative, such as an anonymous hotline.
Show that you’re committed to fighting bullying
Managers are the leaders whose responsibility it is to create a healthy safe working environment. Employees look to the people in charge above them to see what kind of behavior is tolerated and what isn’t. When companies enforce anti-bullying policies inconsistently, employees can begin to question their commitment to employee well-being and work safety.
Companies can be proactive, as well. Certainly, monitoring every piece of employee communication isn’t practical. Public channels of communication, however, should be monitored periodically. This way, unhealthy patterns of behavior can be identified and dealt with before they get out of hand.
Managers have moral and legal obligations to keep workers safe from cyber bullying. Demonstrating commitment to this process can help build a safe culture in which employees feel valued and heard.