Cyberbullying and hostile workplaces diminish a person’s overall quality of life and their ability to deliver exceptional customer service experiences.
More than half of the world’s population spends one-third of their adult lives working, according to the World Health Organization. Employees already have to accept long hours and stressful commutes as work culture standards.
Now employees—especially women and minorities—face belittling in the office and combative co-workers, which can further diminish a person’s overall quality of life. Yes, bullying is pervasively becoming a workplace norm. Everybody deserves to work in a safe, healthy and amicable environment.
More than 50 million Americans reported they’ve been bullied at work, according to a 2010 survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute. Interestingly, men make up 62 percent of bullies, and women make up 58 percent of bullying targets. In 80 percent of the cases, women bully women. Workplace bullying is so common, it’s actually four times more prevalent than illegal harassment, the survey reports.
Workplaces may experience traditional types of office bullying, such as a power-hungry boss who episodically flares up or an intimidating co-worker who humiliates another co-worker in front of others. A new threat though is making its way among cubicles and boardrooms. It’s called cyberbullying, and it’s silently becoming a workplace epidemic.
Cyberbullying is using technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner.
Cyberbullying: A Silent Malady
Employees are continuously connected to work and co-workers through their desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Especially with social networking and BYOD policies, communication among co-workers isn’t excluded to the 9 to 5 workday and at-office technologies. Employees can nonverbally communicate (and bully) in and out of the office at any time of day, which has further perpetuated work-related bullying.
Cyberbullying is silent abuse, and the negative effect of cyberbullying is tragic. Rather than communicating face-to-face, superiors can send a demeaning and critical email to a subordinate. A co-worker can nefariously humiliate another co-worker on Facebook or through IM without the physical environment being flagrantly disrupted.
Researchers observed three surveys from U.K. universities, and among the 320 employee respondents, eight out of 10 experienced cyberbullying such as humiliation or gossip at least once during a six-month period, according to Discovery News.
Do a quick search on articles on cyberbullying and you’ll quickly see cyberbullying stories that show that it’s real and something has to be done to stop it from taking place. Unfortunately, cyberbullying laws to protect people have been slow to be created, but within the workplace, you have control to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
If you suspect you’re a victim of cyberbullying, the following tips can help mitigate bullying behaviors:
- Recognize the warning signs that your boss is undergoing high stress; try to avoid stress factors that trigger a bully-like episode
- Don’t accept unreasonable requests or disrespectful or degrading behavior
- Identify and openly address the problem by confronting a co-worker bully
- Limit how much personal information is shared at your workplace that can be used against you for criticism and allegations
- Update privacy controls on social networking sites and be proactive about protecting your identity online to guard your personal information
- Avoid participating in workplace gossip; female bullies may befriend their target and then turn on her, using once-confidential conversations to their advantage
- Ask for support from others, and express your concern about how the behavior affects your performance as an employee
If your earnest efforts don’t bring results, speak with the human resources department. You may even need to take legal action if you’re the target of sexual, ethnic or gender jokes or derisive comments. As a last resort, you may need to update that resume and start networking.