Encouraging Civility in the Workplace
Should the Minimum Wage Be Increased?

Cyber Bullying in the Workplace

How to Identify Bullying Behavior by Employees

Workplace Bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine, or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s) including physical and emotional stress.

Workplace Bullying often involves an abuse or misuse of power. Bullying behavior creates feelings of defenselessness and injustice in the target and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work. Bullying is different from aggression. Whereas aggression may involve a single act, bullying involves repeated attacks against the target, creating an on-going pattern of behavior. “Tough” or “demanding” bosses are not necessarily bullies as long as they are respectful and fair and their primary motivation is to obtain the best performance by setting high yet reasonable expectations for working safely.

Cyber Bullying in the Workplace usually looks like offensive emails or text messages containing jokes or inappropriate wording towards a specific race, nationality, or about sexual preference. In these cases, the words uttered have a direct effect on the target of the bullying act through threatening email being sent to the target anonymously or not. It might include a response that is copied and pasted for the whole office to see.

Sharing embarrassing situations relating to the target with everyone online, being offensive and mean to the target on various social media websites and networks, spreading rumors or gossip online which could have a serious effect on a fellow co-worker, and downright mean-spirited actions are meant to harm the target whether on a personal or professionals level.

There is no place in the workplace for cyber-bullying yet the practice persists. It’s really an extension of offensive comments we often read on social media sites and online publications. The direct cause is the lack of an internal filter and ethical compass to guide actions.

Cyber bullying can cause significant emotional distress and significantly lead to a diminished workplace performance. The danger of cyber bullying in the workplace is that it follows you home after working hours. The target is put under constant harassment even when the working hours are over. The only way to avoid such harassment is having it reported to try and put an end to it.

Unfortunately, it has been reported that most of the time cyber bullying in the workplace is treated with a shoulder shrug. Employers do not see how this social problem can affect the well-being of their employees, thus, their ability to produce and give the output they should be giving. The direct effect being the cyber bullying can cause the workplace to be unproductive and very stressful.

Cyber bullying in the workplace needs to be addressed through promoting a work environment that refuses to nurture a bully. As with most actions in the workplace, the best way to prevent cyber bullying is to create an ethical culture in the organization. Top management must make it clear that any form of bullying will not be tolerated.

Top management needs to issue a firm policy against bullying and the bully needs to be encouraged to seek professional help as well to avoid further infecting the culture of the organization. From the target’s side, it is better not to share personal information with co-workers; many people have resorted to not having co-workers interact with them on social media websites.

Since cyber bullying in the workplace is relatively new on the list of issues one faces in a workplace, employers have not yet figured a meaningful way to address the issue. When it is mentioned, it is usually under the clause of bullying altogether, which is a good step towards tackling the issue but should not be the final one.

The workplace environment plays a crucial part in determining what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to say or do to a co-worker. An organization that promotes a negative atmosphere towards acts of harassment or bullying will most likely be more successful in preventing such actions. As with most things it all comes down to setting an ethical tone at the top.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 4, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at www.ethicssage.com.