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What employers should do about cyberbullying in the office

Cyberbullying is a distinctly modern issue -- which means that many companies aren't prepared to handle the difficulties it presents when it happens in the workplace. However, the recent shift to remote work by vast numbers of employees in many industries is drawing attention to this increasingly common problem.

Employees can be the victims of cyberbullying via internal communication platforms, emails and texts. The bullies can be their co-workers, clients and even their employers. A recent case involving the luggage company Away, exposed just how easy it can be for a manager or company owner to misuse communication tools like Slack to intimidate and harass their employees remotely.

If you're an employee, what can you reasonably expect an employer to do about a workplace cyberbully? A lot. That includes:

  • Treating the situation as seriously as if it were in-person bullying. Your concerns should never be dismissed because something happened online.
  • Develop a clear process for complaints. Your employer likely has a policy regarding how reports of sexual harassment or ethnic harassment are handled, so why shouldn't electronic harassment be treated with the same seriousness?
  • Make their policies clear and uphold their commitment. Companies that make it clear that harassment and bullying -- online or off -- won't be tolerated are less likely to let a culture of harassment develop and take root.

Your employers have a responsibility to protect you from bullying in any form. If they fail to take action and leave you vulnerable to acts of intimidation, harassment or discrimination, you may be able to hold them accountable in court.

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