Many people don’t realize just pervasive cyberbullying truly is. In addition to being a problem among teenagers, aggressive online behavior has become common in the workplace as well. Just like any other type of harassment, cyberbullying can result in major lawsuits when it isn’t addressed immediately. Here are a few steps that business owners and HR teams can take to stamp out cyberbullying and nurture a healthy work environment.
Implement Clear Policies
This type of bullying isn’t always straightforward, and that is why you need clear company policies. Instead of simply stating that cyberbullying won’t be tolerated, you should spell out exactly which actions go against your company’s policies. Those documents also need to lay out how employees will be punished for each of their offenses. In addition to reducing cyberbullying in the workplace, well-drafted policies will also minimize your risk of a lawsuit. Even if your staff doesn’t work remotely, cyberbullying should still be covered in the employee handbook.
Establish Reporting Channels for Victims
Your employees should always feel comfortable reporting any type of harassment. If you don’t have a dedicated HR team, then your employees will need a direct line to you or another manager. Anonymous reporting systems can be beneficial in situations where employees feel personally threatened. Depending on the severity of the cyberbullying, those reports might need to be forwarded to the police as well. Aggressive online behavior can quickly turn into direct harassment and physical violence, and the safety of your employees should be your number one priority.
Forgo Private Messaging Systems
Policing emails and private messages can be difficult if your employees work remotely, and that is why you should insist that they only use company email addresses, forums, and messaging systems while working. Harassment is going to be much less likely if your employees know that you or the HR team can read their messages at any time. You should also have a system in place for documenting any interactions between your employees. Software that automatically saves all messages and emails is a great option for companies that have one or more remote employees.
Set Strict Rules on Social Media Use
Unfortunately, quite a bit of cyberbullying takes place on social media platforms. You won’t be able to read private messages sent through those platforms, but you can make it clear that harassment on social media won’t be tolerated. Many employees don’t realize that they can be held responsible for anything that they say or post on social media. While training employees, you may want to cover social media etiquette. Your employees’ posts can tarnish your company’s reputation, and they should know exactly what is expected of them.
Promote a Supportive Workplace
The most effective way to prevent bullying in the workplace is to promote a healthy and supportive environment. Employers should consider hosting events where all of their remote employees can meet up and get to know one another. When two remote employees meet in person, they will be much less likely to harass each other online. You also need to make sure that your remote employees mesh well with your company culture. Just because they don’t come into the office every day doesn’t mean that they won’t have an impact on the workplace environment.
Cyberbullying is going to create a toxic work environment when left unchecked, and you could face serious lawsuits if you don’t put an end to that behavior as quickly as possible. Implementing a strict anti-bullying policy and thoroughly training your employees will reduce your risk of an HR incident that costs your company time and money.