Cyberbullying in the Workplace
Cyberbullying doesn’t just affect children and teens. It can be a serious issue in the workplace, too, with a huge negative impact on your team members’ job satisfaction.
With many employees working remotely during 2020, how can you prevent and tackle cyberbullying in the workplace?
#1: Recognize Different Forms of Cyberbullying
The staff you have on your team are crucial to the success of any project. This is the reason why so much attention is usually devoted on developing team skills like procuring the right people and communicating effectively. This is a popular trend right now — consider that on Udemy only, more than 1 million people learn how to be better project managers (check out the number of students for PMP courses on their website).
Cyberbullying can undermine all your best efforts to put together a stellar team. Perhaps you have the idea that it means sending abusive messages or spreading malicious rumors … but cyberbullying can also be more subtle.
It could look like deliberately leaving people out of meetings, ignoring their contributions, assigning them an unreasonable workload, interfering with their tasks, constantly nit-picking about tiny errors like typos, or sharing jokes or memes that mock them in some way.
In many cases, one incident alone could look like a moment of thoughtlessness or a casual joke. It’s important to look at the overall pattern, in context, when you’re considering whether an employee’s actions amount to cyberbullying.
#2: Have Clear Policies Relating to Cyberbullying
Do your company’s policies clearly state what is and what isn’t acceptable use of online communications systems and social media?
For instance, you might have a policy that asks employees not to comment negatively about the company on social media – but do you have any policy relating to fellow employees?
Make sure your policies clearly prohibit workplace harassment, where someone is being targeted because of their gender, race, disability, religion, or any protected characteristic.
Your policies should also state what an employee should do if they’re being bullied (normally, going to their manager or the HR team). Encourage employees to speak up if they feel unhappy or victimized.
#3: Believe Reports of Bullying
Your experience of a bully on your team might be very different to your employee’s experience. You might feel that the bully “gets things done” or is perhaps a little abrasive, but a great performer.
Believe what your employees tell you (or HR) and take them seriously. Don’t dismiss cyberbullying lightly. It’s important to hear what your employee says and tackle the behavior.
#4: Avoid Micromanaging Your Team
As a good leader, you’d probably be horrified at the thought that your employees might feel bullied by you.
Sometimes, though, leaders can fall into a pattern that might feel like good management to them – but that could feel demoralizing or even demeaning to employees.
Constantly asking for updates, or closely monitoring someone’s work, can feel heavy-handed to team members. It can also undermine you as a manager. Some of the most important leadership qualities are delegation and communication, so show your employees that you can hand work over to them effectively.
#5: Foster a Positive Team Environment
By encouraging a positive and supportive team environment, you can reduce the chances of cyberbullying.
If you make sure that all team members are thanked and praised for good work, you create an environment where people feel recognized and affirmed. If you organize team building activities that people enjoy, that can help them come together as a team – even in a virtual environment.
It’s also important to lead by example here. When you give critical feedback, do so in a kind and respectful manner. Share your concerns without being harsh or unkind.
Cyberbullying can be truly destructive to individuals – and also to your team as a whole. Even one or two bullies on a team can create a harmful “us and them” culture, where some people support the bullies and others are victimized.
As a leader, you have the opportunity to ensure that your team is a place where everyone feels welcomed and supported in doing their best work.