An Employer’s Guide to Cyber Bullying

As an employer, there are a lot of irons in the fire for you. It’s not just about managing personnel, handling payroll, and arranging schedules – there’s the responsibility you have to make sure that your employees have a safe and constructive environment to work in.

Managing a team of people from all different walks of life can be incredibly challenging though, and you’re not psychic – try as you might to hire people that will work well together, it’s almost impossible to foresee the challenges that can come with getting cohesive personnel together.

Here’s the thing: there are going to be disagreements between your employees, little scuffles, and that’s okay, and it’s totally normal. Be sure that your employees are aware of the policies and procedures for handling disagreements, and which next in command they need to speak to when a problem arises.

However, when a problem becomes a persistent display of disrespect, it becomes bullying. When it gets to the point when an employee is continually harassing others, it becomes an issue not only of productivity, but of liability – if you don’t take action fast to correct the behavior, you could be opening yourself and your company up to legal ramifications.

Though there are no laws in place at the federal level for this, most states have anti-bullying laws to protect juveniles and adults alike from this kind of continual harassment. Ultimately, if there’s a problem persisting and the victim comes to you to let you know, it’s your responsibility to make sure it comes to an end immediately.

Though harassment often takes place in the workplace itself, bullying has also taken to the web thanks to the popularity of social media. This has definitely complicated matters for companies from a PR perspective, and caused plenty of headaches as employees try to coexist outside of work.

Cyber bullying is the same basic principle as standard bullying, with the idea being that the aggressor will relentlessly humiliate and belittle the victim online instead of in person. Again, this isn’t as minor as a disagreement or an ‘unfriending’, but more along the lines of aggressive behavior and humiliation that persists.

This becomes of particular concern when different level employees get involved online, and there is difficulty adjusting to the authority paradigm outside of work. Past cases have involved superiors sending threatening messages to other employees, rather than communicating with professionalism within the workplace.

Cyber bullying bears the same ramifications of standard bullying in the workplace if not dealt with promptly by the employer – law enforcement just sees it as another form of bullying, and still expects swift and targeted action from the employer.

It can be difficult to monitor and be aware of these problems though, since they largely happen outside of the workplace. It’s ideal to have a policy in place for outside of work interactions and social media, so that there is no room for misinterpretation or abuse.

Here are a few tips for strategies to implement within your company to ensure things stay civil and professional:

  • Just say no to Facebook – As a supervisor, you’re in a position to complicate any personal friendships you develop with your staff. Have a clear cut and dry social media policy for your company that includes a policy for management – it’s generally best to never add employees on your social media accounts at all.
  • Keep communication within the company – This is another key important thing to discuss – anything company-related can only be discussed on company-approved channels. Have these methods clearly defined, like company e-mail accounts and phones, and remind employees that social media and personal accounts are for their personal social use only.
  • Keep records of everything – On that note, it’s usually best to maintain records of e-mails and text messages sent within your company. Make it clear to your staff that deleting messages is not permitted, and that these communications may be monitored from time to time.
  • Enforce a chain of command – So many workplace disagreements start with a simple miscommunication, and escalate quickly from there. Make sure you have the structure of your business clearly defined, and that every employee knows who to talk to if they experience problems with other employees.

The most important thing when trying to prevent cyber bullying from happening within your business is to have these strict and clear policies in place so that your staff are aware of the protocol. Some go so far as to prohibit employees from adding each other at all, though this treads into murky waters with the social and workplace distinction.

Either way, make sure there’s always an open and safe channel of communication between your staff and you, and that they have the means of getting help should problems arise. By being proactive and having clear policies in place for instances of cyber bullying, you can protect your employees and avoid liability issues.

 

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