Why L&D professionals should tackle cyberbullying

by John Hilton10 Feb 2016
The first academic research into workplace cyberbullying perceived by Australian public servants has recently been completed by Dr Felicity Lawrence from the Queensland University of Technology’s Faculty of Education.

Among the results were that 72% of government employees observe or experience task-related or person-related bullying.

Dr Lawrence explained to L&D Professional that task-related bullying can relate to micro-managing, picking on particular bits of work, or excluding people from emails relating to their work.

Whereas examples of person-related bullying include deriding someone’s clothing, gender or something particular to them.

The research involved three anonymous studies including 24 face-to-face interviews, a nation-wide online survey with 127 participants, and a second online survey of 463 government employees across Australia.

In particular, Dr Lawrence said cyberbullying is viewed as more intense than traditional bullying, since the defamatory content can be globalised and hard to remove.

Furthermore, cyberbullying can sometimes be anonymous, and can follow people job to job and state to state, added Dr Lawrence.

Another interesting result was that 56.2% of respondents perceived their current intervention prevention processes as ineffective in dealing with workplace cyberbullying because it tends to happen quickly (with just the click of a mouse) and can be immediately broadcast globally.

Moreover, Dr Lawrence is currently developing training now to combat cyberbullying which is specific to both private and public workplaces.

 “I am really passionate about helping workplaces develop better intervention prevention measures so that we can all have a better experience at work and change organisational culture,” Dr Lawrence told L&D Professional.

Dr Lawrence is developing both e-learning and face-to-face learning which is aimed at organisational culture and diagnosing whether the organisation is accidently supportive of cyberbullying.

In particular, Dr Lawrence advises L&D professionals to read as much as you can about what this is and how it affects people.

“Try to become aware of what cyberbullying in the workplace is really all about and how to become a little bit more compassionate with people who say: ‘This is actually following me home’,” she told L&D Professional.

“It’s important to listen to people who are talking about that rather than saying: ‘Oh, that couldn’t happen’. This is actually happening.

“It’s the same with what L&D professionals should do in terms of any form of bullying. You have to develop specific treatments which is why I am looking at specific treatments for cyberbullying. However, I think that L&D professionals need to think: I am in this type of organisation so the specific treatments might be a little bit different.

“Each organisation might be focused on a different type of clientele or have a different type of employee so you need to be quite specific about your training. This is opposed to your one-stop shop: ‘Let’s do this type of learning training and everyone will be fine’.”

Thesis:  http://eprints.qut.edu.au/88058/1/Felicity_Lawrence_Thesis.pdf

LinkedIn:  https://au.linkedin.com/in/dr-felicity-lawrence-3a326679

Blog:  http://cyberbullyingatwork.blogspot.com.au/