Enclosed is a great article written by  Lanier Upshaw Risk Managers.

A study by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2010 revealed in a U.S. workforce of 200 million people, 37% allege they were the victims of cyber bullies. This means for every ten people, at least three have been the victim of cyber-bullying.

What is cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying happens when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.

An example of this would be when an individual asks someone to stop sending them inappropriate or threatening emails. The perpetuator refuses to stop and continues to threaten his co-worker via email.

Another platform used by cyber-bullies is social media. The bully could post a derogatory remark on Facebook where ten people add to the problem by leaving their own comment. This creates a situation where the victim feels ganged up on

What does this mean for business owners?

It means businesses must proactively address this problem. Failure to do so can be costly. In minor instances cyber-bullying leads to loss of productivity and morale but in extreme cases cyber-bullying could be fatal.

Kevin Morrissey, a 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, committed suicide on July 30, 2010. According to an ABC News report, Morrissey was the target of cyber-bullying and was seeking protection from his employer.

The report alleges the university may not have responded in a timely manner to the employee’s plea for help. In the two weeks prior to his suicide, Morrissey’s phone records, obtained by ABC News, showed calls to the human resources department, the ombudsman, the faculty and employee assistance center, and the university president.

Stories like this are a good wake up call for business owners who want to minimize risk in their workplace. Here are four ways you can do just that.

4 ways to minimize risk of cyber-bullying

1. Recognize the signs

Signs of cyber-bullying can include: a high turnover rate, threatening emails and text messages, someone being ganged up on, or an employee becoming abnormally withdrawn from the group.

If you notice these warning signs it’s better to investigate the cause instead of letting things get out of hand. The better communication with your team the less likely these things will go unnoticed.

2. Create awareness

Just like other forms of harassment, cyber-bullying needs to be talked about. It must be clearly communicated to employees what it is, how to recognize it and what to do when confronted with it. Consider incorporating cyber-bullying into your existing anti-harassment policies.

You may also want to share stories, like the one earlier, to help shed light on this problem. People may not remember your anti-harassment policy verbatim but they will remember an emotional story.

3. Work with your IT department

Since cyber-bullying happens over email, text or social media it can be easier to monitor than other forms of harassment. You may consider pairing up your IT and HR departments and ask them to brainstorm ways to monitor cyber-bullying in emails, discussion groups and social media.

4. Establish an anti-bullying policy in writing

Most employers have created an acceptable use policy (AUP) regarding electronic communication but many of these policies fail to address cyber-bullying. Make sure your AUP clearly states what manner of communication is not acceptable and also the consequences of partaking in such behavior.

Social media is a relatively new place that people hang out. So your AUP needs to outline acceptable parameters on places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.

Creating a harmonious environment

Bullying in the workplace is not a new, but recent technology has created new ways for this to happen. As an employer you cannot afford to ignore the potential risks associated with using digital communications.

We all know there will be interpersonal conflicts in the office but it’s the job of the managers and leaders to address certain problems before they escalate and infect the whole team dynamic.

Remember, this problem affects 37% of employees in the US – so don’t assume it’s not happening in your business. Instead create an effective plan so your workplace is safe for everyone.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your business from cyber bullying please contact our risk mangement department at 410-526-6690.

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