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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Workplace safety: Online & offline workplace bullying & harassment can affect anyone

Can online & offline negative workplace behaviours affect anyone, irrespective of position or role? 

 
Courtesy of  www.first2aid.com

I was recently chatting to two retired heads of agency, both of whom had been in public service for many decades and, during that time, had conducted themselves ethically and unpretentiously. I respected both because of their innate professionalism, ethos of non-entitlement, and commitment to public service. 

Both were close in age, and had observed immense changes in how public service was conducted. While I hadn’t thought to interview either for my doctorate research (I interviewed and gathered data from various agency heads during my research phases), I now found the opportunity to ask for their views about negative online communications in the workforce, particularly government organisations.

To my amazement, both shared stories of being cyberbullied and cyber stalked. 

One ex-CEO shared his story of being cyberbullied and cyber harassed through an anonymous and very public website, that, at one point, had been available through a Google search. The other ex-CEO share her story of experiencing a bullying and harassment email campaign, which had been sent to her respective bosses on multiple occasions over many years.

Both shared how they had been deeply concerned about the impact of this online material on their careers and the reputation of the agencies that they represented. I asked them how they coped at the time, and both indicated that they thought it had been incumbent upon them, in their position as agency heads, to demonstrate resilience and to just “get on with their job.” However saying that, the negative online cyber communications took its toll.

Do you have a story to share? If so, contact me.


How to recognise negative online workplace communications, and how heated online communications escalate into face-to-face confrontations.




Best practice methods on interrupting or defusing negative online workplace behaviours.

Research has found that, without intervention, negative workplace communications (either online or offline) will escalate.

Interrupting disrespectful, abusive, bullying and harassing online conduct needs strong leadership and reliable processes that work (Caponecchia & Wyatt, 2011). Saying that, successfully defusing and mitigating these negative behaviours can only be realised in an organisation that actively supports and endorses a respectful and civil culture and climate that develops collaborative interpersonal workplace relationships built on trust (Mattice, 2015).

First, consult your ICT and HR areas, your boss (or their supervisor), as you organisation may have specific intervention strategies you can source:
ü  Unfriend or block the person
ü  Change online permissions so you can view and/or manage defamatory statements or photos before they’re broadcast
ü  Update online privacy settings to manage who has read access to your posts 
ü  Document and report the person (with evidence) to your manager or supervisor, workplace ICT area, or external website or online service,
ü  If you know the person is not malicious and you have a good work relationship, politely and courteously ask them to stop,
ü  Report to your State/Territory Work Health Safety authority, and/or Australian Human Rights Commission, and/or Commonwealth Fair Work Ombudsman, and/or or Fair Work Commission,
ü  Seek legal advice, and/or
ü  If you feel threatened, report the problem to law enforcement (your local police officer).
  
Second, if you find yourself dealing with an anonymous perpetrator(s) you may choose to:

ü  Again, manage your account(s) privacy settings and permissions,
ü  Document and report the problem (with evidence) with your ICT, HR areas and boss (or their supervisor), and seek support from your friends and colleagues,
ü  Change your username, accounts or delete your profile through your workplace ICT area,
ü  Withdraw from the online collaboration forum,
ü  Stop attending the offline events or places,
ü  Report to your State/Territory Work Health Safety authority, and/or Australian Human Rights Commission, and/or Commonwealth Fair Work Ombudsman, and/or or Fair Work Commission,
ü  Seek legal advice and/or
ü  If you feel threatened, report the problem to law enforcement (your local police officer).
Dr Flis 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. You can contact Dr Flis at LinkedIn  or follow Flis on her blog, Twitter or Facebook

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