Devan Moonsamy 

Cyber bullying seems to be on the rise as more people work from home. Covid-19 has opened a new portal for employee deliverables by companies giving employees the opportunity to complete their tasks from home.  This means what would usually be a meeting in a boardroom now occurs on a Skype or Zoom platform. But amidst the new adjustments we might not see how some employees might be exposed to cyber bullying. 

This appears in various forms. Some of the examples would be an employee frequently being interrupted when speaking, emails and comments during the session that are not kind and perhaps even criticism from managers on a platform that hosts a large group of people. 

These might result in the employee hiding their screen, perhaps we would see a drop in the participation on the virtual meetings and we might also find that they might not be upholding their usual work standards. Infact when it comes to working from home often the line is blurred between work and home. As much it is an exciting opportunity to work in the comfort of your home you will find that those who have to be at the office curl up their nose when it comes to those who work from home. This is almost seen as a privilege by those who have to be at the office.  

However, what we don’t see is the pressure to deliver and meet work expectations are much more at home than that of the office. There is always this point to ponder that perhaps those working from home are doing so in the comfort of their own beds but let’s be honest that might not always be the case. This means the employees who work from home already feel they are treated differently to those who have to be at the office as a result we will see that the anxiety to meet deadlines is much more for working from home. 

Cyber bullying, like office bullying usually grows due to someone feeling they are being treated differently. With work meetings being held virtually it’s normal for some employees to feel left out or bullied.  In a meeting at the office often people are more vocal on their ideas but with the virtual platform often we see individuals hiding behind their screens. 

How do we address the issue of cyber bullying? 

  • The most important point would be to address all participants in the meeting. Engage and encourage participation.  We shouldn’t let any individual feel like they don’t need to participate. 
  • Always record your online session. This is to ensure that in the event there is a case you can go back and address it. 
  • Start the meeting or virtual session with checking up on each individual if the time permits. If it does not give the meeting a few more minutes just to check up on those working from home. This not just makes them feel involved but also makes them feel valued. 
  • If there is a case of cyber bullying. Perhaps a nasty comment or issue don’t hesitate to address it with HR. The virtual platform is still a work platform and these issues must be addressed seriously.  At the same time we must encourage HR to enhance their skills on how to handle these situations. 

The reality is whether bullying takes place at the office or on a virtual platform the risk to the business still exists. That is why these issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency so that these problems can be handled in a manner that is both professional and prompt. 

HR managers should work on updating policies to reflect the new working arrangements. This will also add to the accountability of deliverables as employees venture in this new sphere of work. Anti-bullying and harassment policies must be made available to all to assure that there will be a zero tolerance to bullying in the office. 

We must also handle complaints of cyber bullying with extreme sensitivity. Investigations must be done and due protocol followed. These are new and undoubtedly unchallenging times for all businesses. Ensuring the necessary communication is filtered through and individuals are up to date on the business will result in a smooth running of operations.

Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

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