When someone says “cyberbully” we typically think of teenagers and social media, but this destructive behavior isn’t limited to our youth. With the anonymity of social media, chat apps, and text messaging, cyberbullying has transitioned from the halls of high school to the workplace. Your business or employees can be bullied by co-workers as well as clients or even strangers. If you don’t have an electronic media policy that includes acceptable and unacceptable behavior as well as steps to correct bad behavior, it’s time to talk to your attorney about putting something together.
First, let’s talk about the effect of cyberbullying on your employees. Unlike face-to-face bullying, your employees can’t escape a cyberbully when they leave home. Not only will other co-workers and your employee’s supervisor hear the reputation-damaging rumors cyberbullies spread, but their families may see those rumors when spread over social media. Stress and fear from cyberbullies affect your employee’s sick days and productivity.
Second, cyberbullies don’t focus only on a specific employee, but they may attack your business as a whole. Some customers use bad reviews as a threat to receive discounted rates or to force a business into doing what the customer wants. Other customers or activists groups may bombard a business’s social media page with one-star reviews or negative comments. These attacks affect a business’s reputation with customers as well as employee morale and retention.
Start With Offense
Many businesses never deal with cyberbullying either of their employees or their business, but prevention starts early. Claim all your social media and review site pages. By maintaining clear control over your company’s digital assets you can respond to reviews, request sites remove threatening or offensive posts, and keep updated on what people are saying about your business.
Customers who post negative reviews often just want to be heard. Following an interaction with a customer, email or text to make sure they don’t have any questions or problems within two to three days. You can stop most attacks before they start by showing you care about your customer’s experience and listening to them when they talk.
To remove or reduce cyberbullying in the workplace, start by looking at your company culture. Insist managers report or deal with reports of cyberbullying immediately and provide mental health resources for employees who have been bullied. Make sure your employees understand how to protect themselves online by setting their social media privacy to include only friends and to not accept friend requests from people they don’t know. Remind them to remove their cell phone number from public display (like on their Facebook page) and to never send inappropriate texts or emails to coworkers or clients.
Craft Strong Policies
We’re not attorneys, so nothing written here should be construed as legal advice. We do encourage you to seek out an attorney with experience in your industry to help craft employee policies that address cyberbullying. Draw strong lines between what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t, and the consequences for inappropriate behavior.
Your electronic media policy should include how you manage cyberbullying by clients or even strangers outside your company. Your employees need to know you have their back when they are threatened or bullied by someone outside your organization. Some threats may require you to contact local police. If you have those decisions written out ahead of time, it will make taking those steps easier.
Social media opens amazing opportunities to share our lives, our businesses, and our knowledge with others, but the dark side opens us up people without our best interests in mind. By being aware, but not afraid, of the dangers, you can protect your business and your employees from trolls, bullies, and other electronic dangers.