What Can HR Do About Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying, a term often associated with kids, isn’t just a problem during the school years. In fact, cyberbullies seem to be graduating into the workplace at a breakneck speed. According to a report by UNISON, eight out of every ten workers reported they had experienced cyberbullying at some point during their career. 14% of respondents noted that cyberbullying was an ongoing and pervasive problem for them. It seems that, in some ways, cyberbullying is a more common issue than more traditional forms of bullying, as it allows the bully to place distance between themselves and their targets through online anonymity.
While cyberbullying in the workplace is a common problem, there are ways a professional investigator can help you understand the true nature and scope of your issues. Additionally, human resource professionals can help prevent cyberbullying by applying organizational sciences to the structure of your organization. But, first, it is important to understand what cyberbullying is.
Cyberbullying is a form of harassment that takes place with the aid of an electronic device. It can include harassing or menacing e-mails or text messages, online postings (including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) that are offensive or derogatory, or online message board or chat room posts that demean and belittle an individual. Internal platforms are particularly subject to being used as a tool for cyberbullying because they are generally built specifically for a task unrelated to workplace safety.
Cyberbullying has become a pervasive issue as offenders are offered some level of anonymity and distance from their intended target. Cyberbullying is also easy to pull-off during non-working hours, making many employers unsure of how they can deal with issues that occur on personal time but cause legitimate claims of harassment, retaliation, quid pro quo, or discrimination in the workplace.
Cyberbullying absolutely must be addressed at work. It significantly lowers morale and may have an adverse impact on the overall health and wellness of individual workers and the business. According to the American Psychological Association, instances of bullying have cost U.S. businesses upwards of $300 billion a year. Cyberbullying may also lead to instances of chronic stress, which leads to a greater number of sick days and mental health related absences.
So, what should HR do to prevent cases of cyberbullying in the workplace, or deal with issues that crop up?
- Create a social media policy: It is important to set the line between what can be done and what cannot be done during working hours. While you cannot tell employees what they can and cannot voice on their personal social media pages, you can ensure that such postings aren’t happening during working hours.
- Educate Employees and Management: A lot of people simply think bullying ends at high school. Educate both your staff and your management team about cyberbullying in the workplace. It is possible that harassing and abrasive behavior are not being recognized as such and a bit of education can stop the behavior cold.
- Investigate all claims of bullying and cyberbullying thoroughly. If an individual feels they are being cyberbullied in the workplace, it must be investigated. Allegations of cyberbullying almost always trigger one of the claims that are employers are obligated by law to investigate.
- Create a protocol for disciplining bullies and cyberbullies in the workplace. Discipline may include termination in some cases.
It is important to offer every employee a safe place to work. Preventing cyberbullying in the workplace is one to do that, and to help your business succeed. Further, properly and promptly investigating current claims is the minimum legal response required for employers to remain compliant with workplace laws.