Digital technology has enabled new channels for remote communication and collaboration, making it easier than ever for team members to get their work done without being in the same building together. But as with any new technology, the positives must be weighed in light of potential drawbacks and downsides. Case in point: While digital technology has empowered employee communication, it has simultaneously increased the risk of cyberbullying.
What is cyberbullying, exactly? Simply put, it’s any kind of threatening, intimidating, or harassing behavior that’s conducted via electronic messages and digital communication. It’s something we generally associate with high schoolers and other young Internet users, but actually, cyberbullying can be incredibly common in the workplace. And the more our employees shift to remote work, the greater their exposure to cyberbullying and its negative consequences. In fact, studies have shown that threatening or harassing behavior between employees is alarmingly common in work cultures that are hybrid or remote.
Leaders and managers have to be aware of this problem, and ready to take some proactive steps to address it.
Minimizing the Risk of Cyberbullying
There are a few things that leaders can do to protect their employees from cyberbullying.
- Develop clear policies. A good place to start is by carefully defining what cyberbullying is. Use your employee handbook to provide clarity about how your company defines things like harassment and bullying, making it clear that these definitions extend to online messaging, not just face-to-face interaction.
- Set the expectations. It’s also important to emphasize to your employees that, when it comes to bullying, your company has a zero-tolerance policy. As you update your written policies and procedures, send out a company-wide email to outline expectations.
- Educate employees. When employees understand what cyberbullying is, they are more likely to report it. Make sure your team members can recognize the most common types of cyberbullying: Humiliating emails or public posts, the outing of sensitive information, impersonation of a leader/manager, and intimidating text messages. Also make sure employees know the appropriate avenue for reporting these behaviors.
- Check in with employees. If an employee provides a confidential report regarding cyberbullying, it’s important to circle back with them, not only to let them know their concern is being investigated but also to assess the effect of cyberbullying on their mental health. Often, simply taking the time to ask employees how they are doing can go a long way.
Ensure Safe Work Spaces
It’s the leader’s job to ensure a safe work environment for all employees, and that means taking the threat of cyberbullying seriously. With any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our team at FullHR.