The 10 Ways That We Addressed Cyberbullying in our Workplace

Mar 12th, 2018

by Mark Werman, CEO Wentworth Advantage March 12, 2018

Technology has dramatically changed the way we work, allowing people to work remotely and connecting colleagues around the world. But there is a darker side to these new technological advances, as our business has found out – as we have just recently been exposed to a major cyberbullying attack. It’s had a terrible effect on my staff and I. The police had to be involved and charges have now been laid against the alleged perpetrator. What a mess.

Typically, the traditional bully engages in intimidating behaviours in an attempt to establish power and control over their victims. Traditional, face to face bullying might be physical or verbal, often resulting in psychological or physical harm. Cyberbullying, on the other hand, is the act of engaging in intimidating behaviour through the use of electronic technologies such as email, text message, online chat rooms or via social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
So, as employers, what can we do to end cyberbullying? While there is no single successful method to either prevent or end cyberbullying in the workplace, there are a few promising strategies that we have now implemented to combat cyberbullying in our workplace. I hope these ten ideas can help you in your workplace:
For the employee:

  1. You should attempt to respond in an appropriate manner to the bully, stating their behaviour is not okay, how it is making you feel and that they should stop immediately.
  2. If the bully persists and continues to behave in this way, you should ignore future communication received- generally, bullies are encouraged by provoking a reaction.
  3. Make a hardcopy record of all bullying messages you receive- this easily identifies who the bully was and all communication that took place.
  4. Block your bully- all social media sites possess the ability for you to block whoever you wish, in this case, your bully. This ceases your social media existence in the eyes of the bully discontinuing any streams of communication.
  5. Cut the bully off- Mobile phone providers also have the ability to screen messages and calls from numbers in your block list. Simply contact your provider or set up in your phone messages to block any numbers you no longer wish to interact with.
  6. Seek the advice of a superior in your workplace. Remember that you can report serious cyberbullying or stalking behaviour to ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network) if the conduct is intended to make you (or the victim you are reporting on behalf of) feel fearful, uncomfortable, offended or harassed. If you are being physically stalked or are concerned for your safety, you should report to your local police immediately.
For the employer:
  1. The best action that employers can take is to develop bullying, cyberbullying and social media policies. A policy relating to bullying should include a definition and examples of both bullying and cyberbullying as well as what behaviour is appropriate and acceptable and what behaviour is not. The bullying and cyberbullying policy should make clear the consequences for failing to comply with it, such as warnings, suspension or termination. Also, you should emphasise that the conduct does not need to occur specifically at work.
  2. Each workplace should develop a thorough reporting process and investigation process. Because of the nature of cyberbullying, and the potential for it to occur outside of working hours, often the only way that employers become aware of any issues is if the employee tells them. It is important to ensure that employees feel comfortable reporting issues to their supervisors and/or managers and that they are encouraged to do so. This means that supervisors and managers must deal with a complaint appropriately by listening, asking questions and showing empathy.
  3. Train your managers and staff. If a business fails to train its staff on what is and isn’t acceptable, and an employee subsequently bullies another staff member, a business can be held liable for the employee’s actions. For this reason, it is vital that all staff are given training on appropriate behaviour in the workplace and how to deal with bullying and cyber bullying in the workplace.
  4. And most importantly, don’t ignore the issue. If a business does become aware that there is an issue between staff members or that comments or posts have been made on social media that are inappropriate, the business has an obligation to take immediate steps to address the issue. Despite there being a tendency to want to ignore issues that crop up on social media given they can be tricky to handle, usually apply to out-of-work conduct and can sometimes involve petty disputes, if a business is on notice that there is something wrong and does nothing about it, there is a very strong possibility that the employer could be liable for any damage that is caused to the bullied employee’s health, if a claim were to be brought by them.
Also included is one of our online resources: How to Investigate a Complaint of Workplace Bullying’.
Do you have any questions?

Contact the Wentworth Advantage HR Help Desk service for further guidance and advice.

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