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Dealing With Online Harassment In The Workplace: A Guide For Employers

Dealing With Online Harassment In The Workplace: A Guide For Employers

As an employer and business owner, it's vital to safeguard and care for your employees to maintain a prosperous enterprise. As the backbone of your organization, taking care of your employees and preserving their rights can help create a more productive and efficient workplace that’s not only good for the business but also for them to grow.

However, numerous adults have reportedly been the target of online harassment. What’s even more shocking is the fact that many have faced extreme types of online harassment. And since your employees generally spend a lot of time online, you may have missed internet harassment issues in the workplace.

What Is Virtual Harassment?

People, including your team members, are constantly interconnected these days, thanks to smartphones, social media, and various messaging platforms. And despite how advantageous these technologies are, they may also have made it simpler for harassers to target their victims.

Online harassment is persistent, unwanted, and offensive contact with the intent to intimidate or instill fear in the victim. It may begin offline, then escalate online, where the victim is continually attacked. An example of online harassment is mailing forwards that include threats, abuse, or bullying. Another example is the act of stalking a victim, which entails following them across the websites they access and spreading hurtful or untrue content to humiliate or disturb them.

How To Deal With Online Harassment

The effects of internet harassment are concerning. Aside from affecting the victim’s personal life, it may also affect how they perform at work. It's considerably more difficult to identify since it occurs online rather than in person. And as an employer, you must take steps to safeguard your employees against any form of harassment, especially online harassment.

Below is a list of measures to help you protect your employees and prevent online workplace harassment.

1. Have An Effective Harassment Policy

Firstly, demonstrate your company's dedication to a harassment-free workplace environment. This means creating a sexual harassment policy that encompasses behavior both in the physical office and in the online environment. You can also encourage employees to share their thoughts and recommendations on how to prevent virtual harassment in the workplace.

You can also seek the services of an employment lawyer Sydney or wherever your locality is for professional advice and support regarding online abuse. They could offer legal recommendations and propose measures to best address the issue.

Once policies are in place, ensure that the rules are applied without exception. This means no one is above such regulations, from top management to staff members. And more so, senior members of the organization should promote an anti-harassment tone from the top down.

In addition, part of this is also ensuring that appropriate sanctions are administered to those who are involved. Aside from outlining the dos and don’ts, be clear on the repercussions of such behavior too. And, more importantly, protect the individual who spoke up and reported a case of misconduct. Note that one of the common reasons why most employees feel discouraged about being vocal is the fear of the incident being taken against them, or worse, they may get fired.

2. Modernize Your Organization's Harassment Training

Training concerning harassment in the workplace is equally vital. This could assist in increasing staff awareness of incorrect conduct, fostering a respectful and efficient corporate culture, and enhancing communication within the workplace.

Consider your company's current anti-harassment policies and training. Do they cover all forms of online harassment? If they don't, update and distribute the policy to all your personnel.

For training to be effective, it must be relevant and routinely administered. Educate staff on what is and isn't considered appropriate digital conduct. You can also teach them how to recognize and report any form of online harassment. Take note that shorter and more frequent sessions with interactive aspects, such as role-playing activities, are generally preferable and effective to extensive lectures or plain seminars.

3. Encourage Your Employees To Report Virtual Harassment

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Make it safer and easier to report any form of virtual harassment. And to do this, you can provide various channels, like a contact number, email account, or website that allows them to report any incident. Consider both anonymous reporting and otherwise. The key is to make them feel welcome to speak up.

When you receive reports, take decisive action. Once they voice their concerns, it’s up to you how to handle it and take the necessary steps. It’d be worth noting that your employees might get the wrong notion or perceive that the company's image is more important than their safety if you continuously ignore reports.

In addition, if the budget permits, you can also hire an in-house psychologist that can offer professional help and advice to your employees. Aside from conducting training to spread awareness, offering support and guidance is also essential. This can help nurture a positive and welcoming environment where your team members can feel free to voice their concerns.

Final Thoughts

Online harassment has become more severe in recent years. With the rise of remote work, online abuse became significantly worse. Therefore, it's imperative that businesses take measures to foster a healthy workplace environment and protect their employees from both coworkers’ and outsiders' harassment.

Developing anti-harassment rules and policies, implementing anti-harassment education for employees, and nurturing a community and place where they freely speak up can be good starting points.

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