Learning & Development

Consider Training on Cyberbullying

Left unaddressed, cyberbullying can become a liability issue for employers, says Rob Wilson, president of Employco USA (www.employco.com), who recommends that employers educate employees on the topic.

Many employers do not offer this type of training. “It’s not very broadly done,” says Wilson. However, he says it is important for employers to proactively address cyberbullying. “It’s definitely an emerging area that we’re seeing more of. The HR team needs to take notice of it. It is an exposure out there.”

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Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying can create a hostile work environment and expose an employer to claims of harassment and discrimination; it is the same basis—whether an employee is subjected to derogatory comments in an e-mail, in the lunchroom, or on Facebook or Twitter, Wilson says.

He recommends that employers establish a zero-tolerance policy on cyberbullying, incorporate the policy into their social media guidelines, and educate employees about both.

“If employees feel pitted against one another, they may use social media as a means to lash out or vent about their coworkers,” he says. “It is important that employers address this issue in their policies so that employees feel they are a part of a safe work environment.

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“A positive and productive workplace should be of top priority, and employers can enforce this by instituting cyberbullying policies and penalizing infractions.”

Wilson says that if employers have not already done so, they should update their harassment policy to address cyberbullying and regularly educate employees about the policy. For example, the topic can be addressed during onboarding, an existing training module or a new one, employee meetings, and periodic HR-related e-mails. “You don’t want to talk about it every month, but you do want to make people aware.”

Trainers should work to ensure that employees become familiar with the policy, understand the consequences of cyberbullying, and know how to report it, Wilson says.

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