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.
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.