Why workplace cyberbullying is likely to get worse

It’s likely that workplace cyberbullying will become more prevalent, and the main reason is generational. Here’s why:

Effects of cyberbullying

First, some background. Last November, I wrote a post on the effects of cyberbullying at work, prompted by a study of British workers:

A new study of British university employees concludes that targets of workplace cyberbullying often fare worse than those who experience traditional bullying. Victoria Revay reports for Global News (link here):

In three separate surveys, 320 British university employees were asked to document their experiences with cyberbullying. The study results showed that victims of cyberbullying tended to have “higher mental strain and lower job satisfaction” as compared to traditional bullying.

According to Revay, human resources professor Aaron Schat of McMaster University in Canada, interpreted the results this way:

He says the challenge with cyberbullying in the workplace may be that it lacks a so-called safe haven, or a physical area where the victim can take refuge to avoid the bully. He says this may also be the reason why victims feel more emotionally distressed.

In other words, the personal impact of workplace cyberbullying mimics what we’re seeing with bullying of children in the digital age. You can’t just close your office door or retreat to your cubicle. It pops up on your computer screen at work, and it follows you home and wherever you’ve got access to a home PC, tablet, or smartphone. And if you’re in a job where you’re expected to check your messages even while “off duty,” then you may not have the option of going off the grid for a weekend.

Fast forward

Folks weaned on the Internet are entering the workforce in large numbers. More than any previous generation, many rely heavily on their electronic gadgets to communicate on just about everything. It logically follows that when they engage in bullying behaviors at work, keyboards and smart phones will be their likely forms of transmission.

Connect the dots: More cyberbullying at work, creating deeper levels of stress and anxiety.

The only mitigating effect I can think of right now is that people may be wary of leaving an e-trail of bullying behavior if it implicates their job security or triggers a potential legal claim. But so long as most standard-brand workplace bullying remains legal, those disincentives are milder than we’d like.

2 responses

  1. I’ve found “folks weaned on the Internet” to be a good deal nicer and a good deal more respectful of others than the 50+ crowd (oh, for a few good funerals!). So, I kind of doubt that cyberbullying at work is going to be a bigger problem in the future than real-time cruelty to workers is now.

  2. Emails are tools that bully bosses use to create artifacts, or evidence of fictional behavior or actions..usually repeatedly to create the illusion of a “pattern”. The target has to expend time, energy, plus endure more feelings of victimization and fear (of not wording the response correctly). My teaching colleagues and fellow targets, used to say that we have to spend more time countering the bully and thus less time on our craft. After several years of mobbing, I liberated myself with several strategies. Sometimes, I just stopped responding thus avoiding getting ensnared. I think that is the best because everything you write in response is suspect twisting and turning. I was prepared that if anyone asked me about it, I would just explain what I did and why…thus showing her “pattern”. Before that, I used to respond with a word or sentence, like “You have taken facts out of context and misrepresented the truth”. This I would usually CC to the Equity Office as well as the Union. This was often followed by a retraction statement by my bully boss. Either stop it or make it public. Bullies don’t like being outed.

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