Cyber bullying is rising with time today and with increased use of social media and other digital platforms.
Cyber bullying is often associated with teenagers and schools, but it is increasingly common in workplaces. The outcomes are often the same – to humiliate, undermine and distress the person being targeted. With technology blurring the line between professional and personal life, cyber bullies have found even better ways to reach their victims.
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) recently conducted a survey that revealed 61.5% of remote workers have been affected by bullying with a majority (50%) of cyber bullying happening in meetings. The survey also found that 65% of bullies are bosses while 21% are coworkers and the remaining 14% are subordinates. Another WBI study discovered that 29% of bullied targets have considered suicide and 16% had a plan.
Another new research suggests that rates of cyber bullying are severely high in India. A total of 37% of respondents agreed being bullied online, followed by Brazil (29%), United States (26%), South Africa (26%) and Belgium (25%).
After the global pandemic broke out in early 2020, a wave of crimes and hated against Asians, the study conducted at the University of Florida and Denver showed that the global pandemic had a relative increase in cyber bullying levels on Twitter. Companies specializing in artificial intelligence designed to detect racism and harmful content revealed that cyber bullying increased up to 70% due to pandemics.
“You cannot point out one domain and associate it with cyber bullying because negativity does exist around communities. It is natural human behavior. The main places for cyber bullying consist of 80% social media,” the report authors said.
While random and unknown calls from Smartphones and text messaging applications on different gadgets are solely responsible for driving cyber bullying, online chat rooms, or message boards,malicious emails and online platforms where people indulge in gaming.
The various ways people have been cyber bullied include, writing abusive or threatening comments to someone using text messaging or online chat rooms, spreading rumors or creating a fake profile on social media, sending threatening emails, sharing personal data includes photos, videos, or webcam footage of people without their consent, saying rude comments in online chat rooms, blocking, ignoring, or excluding one member in online gaming communities and posting videos on different social media to humiliate someone.
Ways to Deal with cyber bullying
Sherri Gordon wrote a piece “11 Ways to Deal With a Workplace Cyberbully” that suggests ways to handle cyber bullying at work. Here is the list:
- Do not respond immediately. Take time to gather your thoughts and not respond in anger. This will only provoke the bully.
- Keep your response calm and rational. Don’t respond in a way that involves others in the office who start to watch what is going on.
- Tell the cyber bully you expect the behavior to end. Communicate openly and honestly your feelings. Make sure to tell the bully you were offended and want the offensive behavior to stop now.
- Print and keep copies of all the harassment. Create a timeline of events; a data trail.
- Report the cyber bullying to your employer. This assumes the behavior persists. Use the data gathered to support your claims.
- Report the cyber bullying to Your Internet Service Provider. Forward copies of the offensive emails on social media to your ISP to establish a record of abuse.
- Contact the police immediately if the cyber bullying includes threats. Death threats; threats of physical violence; stalking behavior and other types of harassment should be reported to the police to establish a record of abusive behavior by the bully.
- Close the doors of communication to the cyber bully. Cancel current social networking and personal email accounts and open new accounts.
- Report anonymous cyber bullying. The police may be able to track down who is sending the emails and messages.
- Take the high road. Don’t say or do anything that you will regret later on. Think rationally and consider the consequences of your intended actions.
- Find support. Seek help from friends and family, others who have gone through what you have had to endured and/or professional help.
Creating an Ethical Workplace Environment
Since cyber bullying in the workplace is relatively new on the list of issues one faces in a workplace, employers have not yet figured a meaningful way to address the issue. When it is mentioned, it is usually under the clause of bullying altogether, which is a vital step towards tackling the issue but not comprehensive.
The law is still catching up in this area, but it is possible for employers to discipline employees and even fire them for their behavior and activities outside of work. For that having well-drafted company policies, which spell out that this behavior will be considered a disciplinary offence – whether working from home or office – should be made mandatory, believe experts.
As Simanti Das, a senior HR professional at a Bangalore-based IT firm says, “Companies have a moral responsibility to keep their employees safe. Therefore, leadership, and the CEO, should be held accountable for addressing cultural tension, toxic behaviors, and how they influence the culture.”
She suggests, “While investing in coaching for management and leadership is a must, employing a communication strategy that details how employee complaints are handled, what protections and resources are available for victims as well as disciplinary actions for cyber bullies is important.”
The workplace environment plays a crucial part in determining what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to say or do to a co-worker. An organization that promotes a negative atmosphere towards acts of harassment or bullying will most likely be more successful in preventing such actions. As with most things it all comes down to setting an ethical tone at the top.