Cyberbullying is becoming a growing workplace inclusion issue with eight in ten staff having experienced bullying using modern communications technology such as e-mails, texts or web-postings, a new study has found.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield and Nottingham University conducted three separate surveys among employees in several UK universities, asking people about their experiences of cyberbullying.
“We gave people a list of what can be classed as bullying, such as being humiliated, ignored or gossiped about, and asked them if they had faced such behaviour online and how often,” explained Dr Iain Coyne from Nottingham University.
Of the 320 people who responded to the survey, around eight out in ten said they had experienced one of the listed cyberbullying behaviours on at least one occasion in the previous six months.
Furthermore, around 14 to 20 per cent of staff said they had experienced cyberbullying on at least a weekly basis – a similar rate to conventional bullying.
The research also looked at the effect of cyberbullying on employees, finding that victims tended to have higher mental strain and lower job satisfaction.
“In one of our surveys, this effect was shown to be worse for cyberbullying than for conventional bullying,” added Dr Coyne.
But while cyberbullying can have a serious impact on those that experience it first hand, the study revealed that it has a much more muted effect on witnesses than conventional bullying, which could contribute to the problem going undetected and unaddressed in the workplace.
“In the research literature, people who witness conventional bullying also show evidence of reduced wellbeing. However, in our research this does not appear to be the case for the online environment,” Dr Coyne said.
“This could affect the witness’s reaction to the bullying and potentially whether to report it or otherwise intervene.”
The results of the study will be fully revealed at an event being hosted by the Economic and Social Research Council later this week (November 7th), where the researchers will also discuss ways employers can help tackle cyberbullying in the workplace.