e-Bullying in the workplace

During a business coaching session last week, I heard a really good phrase from an employee about her boss. She said he had quite unsubtly "passed on the baton of stress." Staff who are experiencing a less-than-happy time at work often feel under extra pressure and they simply delegate their own stress along, usually down the line but sometimes to bosses or colleagues. This is destructive of group relationships and can even lead to unfair dismissal cases.

Recently, we have heard that two out of three secondary students are scared to tell their teachers that other students at school bully them. Bullying, manipulation and harassment have unfortunately always existed in our lives, whether at home, school or in the workplace. Schools have bullying policies these days, but the results of a work-place survey conducted by the recruitment agency Reed makes depressing reading.

Traditional bullying tactics, well-entrenched in real-time employment, have now infiltrated the e-world of work. As economic pressures raise office temperatures in these difficult times, it is not only middle and junior staff who are affected by this modern scourge. Bosses experience email bullying as well, from staff, shareholders and Board members. 45% of respondents had experienced a vast increase in email bullying over the past three years. Recipients were made to feel uncomfortable not only because of inappropriate style and language but also because of the constant bombardment that email makes possible.

‘Please’, ‘thank you’ and a smile smooth the way during face-to-face discussion…. the same courtesy must be part of email etiquette. It is all too easy to be brief to the point of rudeness in an email. And so many people seem to believe their responsibility ends when they press the ‘send’ button. Maybe if they thought of their colleagues not as ‘internal customers’ (in current HR-speak) but as partners, then there could be more care and reflection. A useful tool is to put the email into the 'draft' folder and reassess it carefully the next day to ensure it is communication not ammunition.

 

 

 

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