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Bullying in a social business


Instances of bullying on social networks are sadly all too common, and I’m sure many of us are all too aware of online communities where members, probably emboldened by anonymity, launch into the kind of foul mouthed tirades the like of which they would never dream of replicating in a physical encounter.

Whilst such encounters are all too familiar in the social web, do they also occur in the business social spaces that are increasingly entering our workplaces?  Researchers from DePaul University in Chicago believe that this kind of virtual workplace behaviour is on the increase.

The researchers point out that the negative behaviour isn’t quite as explicit as the kind you see on the average YouTube video.  Instead, it comes by way of exclusion and ostracism.  Accidentally on purpose forgetting to copy someone in on information for instance or excluding them from calls.  These sorts of behaviours are increasingly common, with much of it going unnoticed.

A large part of this is due to the remote nature of working, and of course the lack of regular appraisals gives people few opportunities to formally raise any concerns they may be having.  The researchers believe that poor online behaviour is largely a result of the lack of proximity between us and our colleague.  If you don’t face the risk of a swift punch on the nose then you tend to become more emboldened to insult them in some way.

A lot of this comes back to the kind of culture we have at work.  Most formal HR policies are irrelevant as most tend to apply primarily to those of us working in the office, not to those working remotely.  Without such explicit guidance, it tends to come down to the culture of an organisation to support and underpin the kind of behaviours one should expect at work.

How do you unearth such behaviours in your own workplace?

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