Social Media, Cyberbullying, and Your Duty as an Employer
Social media is a mainstay in just about every modern marketing department, but the use of social media in the workplace goes far beyond marketing. And, unfortunately, social media is sometimes used as a platform for bullying.
The Dangers of Workplace Bullying
When most people think of bullying, they picture the hallways of a high school or neighborhood playground – but this isn’t an age-restricted issue. Bullying happens at every age and in every environment – including the workplace.
According to WBI, Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is:
Some of the consequences of workplace bullying include anxiety, depression, anger, low self-esteem, lack of engagement, and a desire for retaliation.
How to Effectively Handle Social Media and Cyberbullying
One of the more common forms of workplace bullying is cyberbullying – specifically via social media. According to one study, 8 out of 10 people experience cyberbullying at least once over a 6-month period and 14% to 20% of people are victims of cyberbullying at least once per week.
Sometimes cyberbullying is obvious, while other times it’s subtle and flies beneath the radar. Examples of cyberbullying include sending malicious or threatening emails, text messages, or social media posts, public shaming via mass email, sharing embarrassing or manipulated images or videos of an individual, spreading lies and gossip via digital channels, and anything else that could be considered threatening or detrimental to the emotional health of the victim.
From an employer/HR perspective, it’s imperative that you have a strategy in place for effectively handling cyberbullying – particularly as it pertains to social media. Here are a few tips on what you can do to quickly curb this issue:
1. Make Sure Employees Know What Cyberbullying Is
One of the reasons cyberbullying is so common is that a lot of employees don’t know that they’re doing something wrong. They may think that they’re making a funny joke and not realize that they’re continually humiliating someone. The best way to avoid instances like these is to educate your employees on what bullying looks like.
2. Call Out the Offending Parties
The reason cyberbullying is more prevalent than in-person bullying is that the bully is able to hide behind a screen – making their actions more comfortable. If you want to stop cyberbullying quickly, call out the perpetrators and bring them face-to-face with their victims. For example, if an employee shares an embarrassing picture of a co-worker and writes a disparaging comment on it, then bring these individuals together and let the bully know that their actions won’t be tolerated. This sort of direct confrontation should deter future action.
3. Consider Blocking Social Media Access
If you invest in training and confront issues as they arise, yet cyberbullying still continues to take place, you may need to put restrictions in place to protect your employees. Blocking access to social media sites won’t control what employees do in their time away from work, but it will make sure your office isn’t an environment where cyberbullying is allowed to thrive.
Treat Your Employees With Care
Bullying is upsetting no matter the age or environment. And while you may think that your employees should be able to stand up for themselves, this isn’t always the case. Cyberbullying can overwhelm the victim and lead to impairrable psychological damage that will ultimately reflect poorly on your organization.