Author Bio ▼

Dr Flis has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and is passionate about helping people who lead and work in organisations create better workplace experiences and improving work cultures. Get free resources and tactics on appropriately dealing with negative online and offline workplace behaviours at or contact Dr Flis at[email protected] or  LinkedIn. You can also follow Dr Flis on her blog Twitter or Facebook.
March 11, 2016

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How to deal with workplace cyberbullying


Cyberbullying at work can be highly stressful, create job dissatisfaction and lead to reduced well-being and productivity. Dr Felicity Lawrence, director of Stop Workplace Cyberbullying, explains…

While an internationally recognised definition of workplace cyberbullying has yet to be recognised, researchers generally agree that workplace bullying using technology is the capacity of abusive and/or defamatory content to go viral on the internet or work intranet and hurt, embarrass or defame the target(s).

Workplace cyberbullying is generally viewed as more intense than face-to-face bullying as the perpetrator(s) can be anonymous and online content can be rapidly and globally disseminated, hard to remove, and has the capacity to follow people from work to home, job to job, and potentially impact a target’s well-being, reputation and job security.


Recent research conducted in Australia across 614 government employees found participants rated work related phone calls and email as the most likely forms of technology to convey cyberbullying. These platforms were closely followed by sms, instant message services and video conferencing software. More than half of participants described cyberbullying as micromanagement, inconsistent or unmanageable workloads, impossible deadlines and persistent criticism of a person’s work. Slander, social isolation, repeated reminders of past mistakes and insinuations about a person’s mental health occurred in 18.8% of cases.

An international business survey (AVG Technologies, 2013) found participants defined workplace cyberbullying as the dissemination of embarrassing work-related photos, and the sometimes covert posting of negative or unpleasant criticisms about a colleague’s appearance or work abilities through voicemail, instant messaging, social media or sms. Unwanted romantic advances and secret online discussions about colleagues were also described.

Critically, cyberbullying was also reported as escalating workplace confrontations and leading to heated face-to-face or online exchanges (AVG Technologies, 2013).

Without intervention, negative workplace behaviours will always escalate and percolating levels of discourtesy and disrespect spirals into online and offline intimidation, harassment and bullying, and escalates into retaliation, cyber assault or physical aggression (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011). Quickly and effectively interrupting this behaviour depends on authentic and reliable managerial support and resolution processes (Caponecchia & Wyatt, 2011), and relies on an organisational culture and climate that’s built on civility, respect and collaborative interpersonal workplace relationships (Mattice, 2015).

What you can do

On a more personal level, for people suffering cyberbullying in their workplace, workers can either ignore the communications or consider one of the following options (please consider using these options together with support from your ICT area and/or supervisor):

  • unfriend or block the person;
  • change online permissions so you can view and/or manage defamatory statements or photos before they’re broadcast;
  • update online privacy settings so as to manage who has read access to your posts;
  • report the person to your manager or supervisor, workplace ICT area, or external website or online service; and/or
  • if you know the person is not malicious and you have a good work relationship, politely and courteously ask them to stop.

Conversely, when dealing with anonymous perpetrator(s) you may choose to:

  • again, manage your account(s) privacy settings and permissions;
  • discuss the problem with friends and colleagues for support;
  • change your username, accounts or delete your profile through your workplace ICT area;
  • withdraw from the online collaboration forum;
  • stop attending the offline events or places; and/or
  • report the problem to law enforcement.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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