When we think of cyberbullying, we often think of school-age children. But online harassment takes many forms, and adults can experience cyberbullying in the workplace. Workplace bullying is nothing new – according to surveys by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 60.3 million US adults are affected by bullying at work.
According to a Monster.com survey, bosses or managers make up 51% of workplace bullies, while another 39% are coworkers. As work goes increasingly online, bullying also goes digital, taking place in instant messaging platforms and email. Some workplace cyberbullies harass their targets outside of work hours, taking to social media, text messages, or other digital platforms. Bullying and cyberbullying have big consequences in the workplace, resulting in decreased productivity or morale, increased employee absences, and high turnover rates. Workers themselves are more likely to experience a loss of self-esteem, anxiety, panic attacks and stress, and may leave their position to find other opportunities.
What is workplace bullying?
While conflict can happen in the workplace, bullying is different. The WBI defines workplace bullying as, “repeated, harmful mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees.” Bullying can look like verbal abuse, verbal or physical threatening behaviors, and interference in work, including sabotage.
No one deserves to be bullied, and it can have a major impact on employees and the companies they work for. With cyberbullying growing more and more pervasive in the workplace, here are five steps to take against workplace bullying.
1. Tell the cyberbully to stop
Tell the bully once and only once that the behavior needs to stop. Do not retaliate or respond harshly and be sure to keep a professional tone. Document this exchange, including the date and what was said. Set clear boundaries with your workplace bully and explain specifically what behavior you will no longer accept. TheBalanceCareers.com recommends describing the behavior, how you experience it, and the impact it has on your work.
2. Keep records
If the behavior continues, keep detailed records of each cyberbullying incident, whether it’s over email, text or instant message, or social media. Include the date, time, contents of the message, and platform. Take screenshots of texts or save copies of emails. If anyone else witnesses the incident, be sure to document that as well. It will come in handy if and when you need to report the incident, or if the situation escalates and you need to involve law enforcement.
3. Report incidents
Get support from your manager (if possible) and from HR or higher-ups if necessary. Be sure to clearly and calmly present the facts and explain the situation. Detail all the actions you have taken to stop the behavior and share your records of the bullying incidents. You may want to discuss how these attacks are impacting your productivity at work.
4. Get support
Being cyberbullied at work is hurtful, and you may need to find support from friends, family, and/or a counselor or therapist. Because workplace bullying can damage self-esteem and make people feel anxious, self-care is especially important. Remember that bullying is not a reflection on you – it is a choice that the other person is making and is really about them. Speaking to someone can help you navigate the difficult feelings of being bullied.
5. Think about next steps
If the behavior continues, you need to start thinking about next steps. You may need to block the cyberbully from your social media accounts or even set up a new email account if the bullying occurs outside of workplace accounts. If the situation escalates and your bully is making threats against your physical safety, you may need to contact the police and file a report or a restraining order. You may also want to contact a lawyer who can file a claim on your behalf and recover damages. Finally, you may need to take steps to look for a new position elsewhere, especially if the efforts of HR and managers are ineffective.
If you are worried that your cyberbully is trying to get into your accounts or gain access to personal information, take steps to set strong passwords and secure your online accounts. If the bullying is taking place outside of work, you can also contact and report the incidents on any social media platforms where the incidents take place. Above all else, take care of yourself and focus on your safety.
Do you have any advice for targets of a cyberbully in the workplace? Please share them with us @CenturyLink on social media.