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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Can netiquette diffuse workplace cyberbullying?

What does your online communications say about you?

 Image courtesy of www.comm.utoronto.ca

Being aware of how people perceive your communication style across work email and other communication technologies such as social media can be important in establishing credibility and approachability. As discussed in Sarah Browne's article this week, "Personal Development:How to wreck your first job in one simple text"  without necessarily being conscious of it, there is a tendency for people to perceive, and use, workplace communication technology slightly differently to one another. 

Contemporary communication technologies are leading to rapidly changing job expectations, organisational culture, and less conventional online and offline workplace behaviours (Coovert & Thompson, 2003). Unconventional online communication behaviours have the potential to deliver productivity enhancements, but may also lead to greater opportunities for miscommunication. This is particularly the case as cyber-communications are increasingly blurring the lines between work and home, leading to perceptions of bullying and harassment (Giumetti, McKibben, Hatfield, Schroeder, & Kowalski, 2012) as indicated in Browne's article,

                      In some European countries, new employee-employer communications protocols are in place. In Germany, even the Government has become involved, banning certain types of after-hours communication behaviour such as phone calls. Some corporations such as VW actually turn off email at close of business. While these practices don't appear to be widespread elsewhere, human resources professionals are monitoring the trends closely.
                                                               (Sarah Brown, 2015, February 24)

Employees now have access to a broad spectrum of cyber-communications including email, sms, instant messaging, video conferencing, social media etc. It is generally agreed that these online communication platforms are transforming the way humans think, communicate and socialise (Hinduja & Patchin, 2013; Oliver & Candappa, 2003; Wang, Iannotti, Luk, 2010; Williams & Guerra, 2007).

Contemporary fast paced work environments can be stressful and can provide opportunities for misunderstandings to occur between employees (Seigne, Coyne, Randall, & Parker, 2007) that, if allowed to escalate without intervention, has the capacity to reach a level of intensity, frequency and duration that develops into bullying (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2003). This can sometimes be more likely in highly disparate teams or organisations where people's expectations, backgrounds and responses are so divergent there may be little to no common ground with which to resolve conflict.

This point may be crucial for contemporary organisations actively seeking employee diversity to create a new business edge or enhance productivity and innovation. Research has found that well managed diverse teams are more likely to provide thought leadership on challenges deemed to be just "over the horizon", to quickly develop clever and innovative solutions, be adaptive and are generally highly productive (Peters, 2004). 

Dr Lawrence has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Can cyberbullying levels be diagnosed in workplaces?

Dr Felicity Lawrence

Consultant and trainer

Identifying and mitigating 
workplace cyberbullying
Image courtesy of www.bubhub.com.au


Dr Felicity Lawrence has in-depth expertise in diagnosing the level of organisational workplace cyberbullying in your organisation. Her research represents the first known academic research into workplace cyberbullying in Australian organisations.

Conventional workplace bullying costs organisations between $6 and $36 billion each year in productivity losses and unseen costs such as absenteeism, high insurance premiums and staff turnover.

Cyberbullying at work is more intense with potentially greater impact on productivity and well-being given its capacity for anonymity and to follow people from work to home, defamatory comment to be rapidly globalised.

Dr Lawrence has developed a diagnostic tool that identifies the levels of workplace bullying and cyberbullying in public and private organisations. She also provides bespoke employee training to mitigate negative effects of cyberbullying on organisational and employee productivity and well-being. 

Her research found 1 in 5 participants had observed or experienced workplace cyberbullying with an equal number ranking their workplace stressful:


  • 43.8% of participants reported reduced workplace productivity, 
  • 56.2% ranked existing organisational intervention measures as ineffective in dealing with workplace cyberbullying events,
  • 100% reported being cyberbullied by other employees and external clients through work related email
  • 98% reported cyberbullying through telephone calls,44% through SMS, 42% through instant message services,36% through video conferencing software, and 28% through social media.



Dr Lawrence has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.




Sunday, 14 February 2016

Why L&D professionals should tackle cyberbullying, by John Hilton, L&D


Article courtesy of L&D Professional 
by John Hilton
10 February 2016


http://www.ldphub.com/general-news/why-landd-professionals-should-tackle-cyberbullying-211618.aspx

Why L&D professionals should tackle cyberbullying

The first academic research into workplace cyberbullying perceived by Australian public servants has recently been completed by Dr Felicity Lawrence from the Queensland University of Technology’s Faculty of Education.

Among the results were that 72% of government employees observe or experience task-related or person-related bullying.

Dr Lawrence explained to
L&D Professional that task-related bullying can relate to micro-managing, picking on particular bits of work, or excluding people from emails relating to their work.

Whereas examples of person-related bullying include deriding someone’s clothing, gender or something particular to them.

The research involved three anonymous studies including 24 face-to-face interviews, a nation-wide online survey with 127 participants, and a second online survey of 463 government employees across Australia.

In particular, Dr Lawrence said cyberbullying is viewed as more intense than traditional bullying, since the defamatory content can be globalised and hard to remove.

Furthermore, cyberbullying can sometimes be anonymous, and can follow people job to job and state to state, added Dr Lawrence.

Another interesting result was that 56.2% of respondents perceived their current intervention prevention processes as ineffective in dealing with workplace cyberbullying because it tends to happen quickly (with just the click of a mouse) and can be immediately broadcast globally.

Moreover, Dr Lawrence is currently developing training now to combat cyberbullying which is specific to both private and public workplaces.

 “I am really passionate about helping workplaces develop better intervention prevention measures so that we can all have a better experience at work and change organisational culture,” Dr Lawrence told
L&D Professional.

Dr Lawrence is developing both e-learning and face-to-face learning which is aimed at organisational culture and diagnosing whether the organisation is accidently supportive of cyberbullying.

In particular, Dr Lawrence advises L&D professionals to read as much as you can about what this is and how it affects people.

“Try to become aware of what cyberbullying in the workplace is really all about and how to become a little bit more compassionate with people who say: ‘This is actually following me home’,” she told
L&D Professional.

“It’s important to listen to people who are talking about that rather than saying: ‘Oh, that couldn’t happen’. This is actually happening.

“It’s the same with what L&D professionals should do in terms of any form of bullying. You have to develop specific treatments which is why I am looking at specific treatments for cyberbullying. However, I think that L&D professionals need to think: I am in this type of organisation so the specific treatments might be a little bit different.

“Each organisation might be focused on a different type of clientele or have a different type of employee so you need to be quite specific about your training. This is opposed to your one-stop shop: ‘Let’s do this type of learning training and everyone will be fine’.” 

Dr Lawrence has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.



What is occupational violence?

Is online and offline workplace bullying viewed as organisational violence and aggression?


From a  legal perspective, occupational violence is viewed as repeated examples of organisational violence and aggression, as indicated in a legal article  by Stephanie Sheppard and Ryan Baxter, lawyers from McInnes Cooper.

Occupational violence

Past researchers identified occupational violence as more likely to manifest if violence and aggression is organisationally accepted. This factor is seen as greater than any other, such as the introduction of new technologies, ambiguous or unclear policies and governance practices, organisational change or job uncertainty (Einarsen, 1999Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2007; Mayhew, 2007; Rogers & Kelloway, 1997; Weatherbee & Kelloway, 2006).

Occupational violence has also been defined within the context of as “organisational deviance” (Robinson & Bennet, 1995), or the “voluntary behaviour that violates significant organisational norms and in so doing threatens the well-being of an organisation, its members, or both” (p. 556)

Violence continuum

Within this context, organisation deviance refers to occupational violence as a "violence continuum." 

Image courtesy of www.researchgate.net

In my research, the "violence continuum"  begins as discourtesy, disrespect, and intimidation, which escalates into personal aggression, harassment and bullying, retaliation, verbal assault, and manifest as physical threats and aggression. “Personal aggression” can therefore range as broadly as verbal abuse to physical violence.

Interrupting such behaviour relies on robust reporting and conflict resolution processes that, according to Caponecchia and Wyatt (2011), are only successful when employees feel confident in their organisation’s management authenticity and support in enforcing the resolution process.

In an ABC QandA discussion (2015, February 23) on domestic violence, Rosie Batty (2015 Australian of the Year) succinctly stated, "Well, violence is a continuum. Without intervention, it will always escalate and get worse, always.."

Defining occupational violence

Resolving occupational violence, such workplace cyberbullying, can be complex, particularly given the definitions of occupational  violence are defined differently in federal, state and territory codes of practice and guidance (Australian Productivity Commission, 2010).

For example, while  the Tasmanian guidance succinctly states occupational violence as "not defined separately from bullying. Includes psychological and/or physical violence (including physical abuse) under a broad definition of bullying," the federal guidance note defines occupational violence as,

"any action, incident or behaviour that departs from reasonable conduct in which a person is assaulted, threatened, harmed or injured in the course of, or as a direct result of, his or her work — can include threatening behaviour, verbal or written threats, harassment, verbal abuse and physical attacks"

While the Queensland guidance note provides more detail,

"any incident where a worker is physically attacked or threatened in the workplace or during workplace activities. ‘Threat’ means a statement (verbal) or behaviour that causes a reasonable person to believe they are in danger of being physically attacked. ‘Physical attack’ means the direct or indirect application of force by a person to the body of, or to clothing or equipment worn by, another person where that application creates a risk to health & safety"

Given these differences, it is hardly a surprise that targets dealing with workplace offline and online bullying (cyberbullying), might seek legal assistance from private lawyers who have deep knowledge of each jurisdiction's legislated mandates, as indicated in the article below


Dr Lawrence has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Can workplace cyberbullying be resolved using existing measures?


Image courtesy of www.cyh.com
In previous blogs I talked about the key differences between traditional, face-to-face (f2f) bullying (or offline bullying), and cyberbullying (AKA online bullying) at work, as identified from my research.

Just to refresh our memories, f2f or offline workplace bullying is localised, involves persistent or repetitive harassment and power imbalance between the perpetrator and target(s), often causing the target(s) to feel powerless to defend themselves.

Workplace cyberbullying, or bullying using technology, is the ability of abusive content to be anonymously and rapidly broadcast globally, and follow target(s) from work to home, job to job, state to state, often causing the target(s) to feel powerless to defend themselves. Workplace cyberbullying is viewed as more intense, as defamatory content can be immediately "viralised" and hard to remove from the internet, potentially defaming the target's reputation and/or career. 

Where the identity of the cyberbully is clear, the general rule of thumb is to copy, save and retain as much evidence as possible to later share with an HR or a legal adviser who can work to resolve the case for you. In some instances, overt cyberbullying, where the perpetrator's identity is clear, may be easier to resolve than face-to-face bullying given the trail of hard evidence. 

Saving and retaining evidence also holds true where the perpetrator remains anonymous, although in these cases the target's access to natural justice (the rule against bias and the right to a fair hearing) is somewhat eroded as, depending on the situation, the online behaviour may take months to be shut-down or removed from the internet. 

Based on my research, traditional advice in resolving workplace cyberbullying seem variable... 

For instance, ICT or HR areas may recommend turning-off or developing new work email, workplace Facebook and internet accounts, or to block the offending email address, phone number or web account. 

These strategies may work for a while. However, if the target relies on their email or web accounts to progress their work, then closing down their online accounts is both isolating and potentially substantiates the cyberbully's claims regarding the target's under performance. Furthermore, targets dealing with a technological savvy perpetrator who regularly changes email and web accounts can be difficult to block and can possibly track the target's new workplace email and web accounts.

Employees seeking transfers, or promotion may now need to be aware of how to best respond to questions during a job interview about a defamatory social media website, YouTube video or photo that they are, or had experienced in the past, and had been unable to (completely) remove from the internet. This type of discussion during interview has the potential to be embarrassing, so training or awareness programs on dealing with this situation may become increasingly important.

Additionally, the employee may find themselves hired in the new job, however the new employer may, quite reasonably, raise a file note may in the employee's personnel file regarding the internet claims. Dealing with this could be tricky and potentially stressful, and may require training in EQ, resilience and communication skills to successfully navigate.

Furthermore, employees newly promoted into management roles may need additional resilience training and new work strategies in dealing with staff seeking to embarrass, or even bully, their new boss by making use of the publicly available online information to undermine their new boss.

One thing is clear, resolving workplace cyberbullying communications, behaviours and events by retrofitting traditional anti-bullying policies, and intervention and prevention programs will most likely result in the development of an extensive network of probably well-written artefacts. 

However, these artefacts, intervention and prevention measures must specifically treat workplace cyberbullying behaviours and outcomes to be effective.



Dr Lawrence has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Cyberbullying in the workplace can put employers at risk | Akron Legal News

Cyberbullying in the workplace can put employers at risk

SHERRY KARABIN

Legal News Reporter

Published: February 1, 2016

http://www.akronlegalnews.com/editorial/14426
The Akron Legal News • 60 South Summit St. • Akron, Ohio 44308 • Phone: 330-376-0917 • Fax: 330-376-7001
It’s a common form of intimidation used by teenagers and other school-aged children, but according to some legal experts cyberbullying has not only graduated to the workplace, the allegations are being used to support employment discrimination and harassment lawsuits.
Roetzel & Andress labor and employment law associate Nathan Pangrace said the firm is noticing an uptick in such charges filed by members of protected classes.
“Anti-discrimination laws forbid discrimination or harassment based on race, national origin, gender, age or a disability,” said Pangrace.
“Any time you have an employee in one of those protected categories who is receiving threatening or harassing comments by text, email or social networking, this activity can be used as part of the basis to prove a discrimination or harassment lawsuit,” said Pangrace.
If an employee brings the problem to the employer’s attention and the company fails to address the issues, Pangrace said this could put the business at risk.
“However, even if there is no liability at stake, addressing the issue makes good business sense,” Pangrace said.
While bullying in the workplace is nothing new, he said cyberbullying is rising simply because employees now use emails and texts more often to communicate with one another.
“Cyberbullying can be easier because there is no face-to-face communication and an employee can send nasty messages from the safety of his/her computer.
“The person doing the cyberbullying can also seek to be anonymous by using an alternate name,” Pangrace said. “However, this does not always work since the person receiving the messages can often identify who is sending them based on what is being said.”
In fact, he said a few months ago, an employer was sued after its employee made threats to a co-worker via Facebook under a fake name. “The co-worker reported it to police and police tracked the computer to the employer’s office,” Pangrace said.
According to Neil Bhagat, an associate at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, currently there are no federal laws that directly address the issue of bullying or cyberbullyng. However, he said various groups are working to change this.
In Ohio, Pangrace said the crime could be prosecuted under the state’s telecommunications harassment law (2917.21) in cases where a person anonymously uses a telecommunication device like a phone to send a text or make a call for the purposes of harassing or threatening a victim. 
He said charges could also be filed under Ohio’s “menacing by stalking,” code (2903.211), which contains a provision stating “No person, through the use of any electronic method of remotely transferring information, including, but not limited to, any computer, computer network, computer program, or computer system, shall post a message with purpose to urge or incite another to commit a violation of division (A)(1) of this section.”
Additionally, in 2012 Gov. John Kasich signed the Jessica Logan Act or House Bill 116, which defines electronic bullying and requires schools to establish anti-bullying policies.
Bhagat said recently clients have been reaching out to him to determine what their legal obligations are in cases of cyberbullying.
“When bullying occurs on the premises and employers become aware of it, employers likely have an obligation to become involved,” said Bhagat. “But when incidents occur outside the workplace during off hours, it is more of a gray area.
“If an employee is using Facebook to repeatedly ‘bully’ another employee after hours and the employee brings it to the attention of the employer, the employer needs to investigate the claim to determine what steps to take.”
Bhagat and Pangrace advise employers to insert information pertaining to bullying and cyberbullying into the sections of their workplace policies that deal with anti-harassment and communication.
They say the topic of cyberbullying should also be included in the “Acceptable Use of Technology” by personnel policy, especially in cases where the employer issues workers cell phones or laptops.
“Once these policies are in place, they must be communicated to all employees at the time of hire and throughout employment,” said Pangrace. “Training should also be provided to management and staff.
“Unlike other forms of bullying, cyberbullying leaves behind a trail of evidence that is generally easily discoverable, should the employee file a lawsuit,” said Pangrace.

Dr Lawrence has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.