- According to the 2021 Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, 47% of managers were found to be the biggest perpetrators of workplace cyberbullying.
- According to the survey, 61.5% of remote workers were either bullied or witnessed someone being bullied, well-above the national average of 49%.
- Bullying at work is abhorrent, but the mass adoption of hybrid and remote work could magnify the problem if not addressed. Leaders need to ensure that their harassment policies are reflective of the current era.
Close to one-third of American workers have stated experiencing abuse in the workplace.
According to the 2021 Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, a staggering 73% of workers are aware that this type of harassment takes place.
Knowing this, it begs the question: Why hasn’t anything been done?
It turns out, when the perpetrator in question is also in charge of signing your check, confronting a workplace bully becomes more difficult.
What Is Workplace Cyberbullying And Who Is Doing It?
Workplace cyberbullying — the intimidation experienced by a remote or hybrid employee due to a lapse in communication with or mistreatment from leaders — may seem like a lesser form of harassment, but the transition to an increasingly distributed workforce has amplified this problem.
While interpersonal workplace conflict is common and often has guidelines meant to resolve it, the pivot to hybrid and remote work models has made instances of workplace harassment more common — and harder to pinpoint.
In fact, 47% of managers were found to be the biggest perpetrators of workplace cyberbullying, according to the WBI survey. Additionally, 67% of men were found to be offenders of bullying compared to 33% of women.
The survey shows that this type of harassment occurred in virtual meetings with other colleagues or one-on-one (50%) and via email (9%), while the remaining respondents stated never experiencing remote work-specific mistreatment.
Because of harassment mostly coming from upper-level staff, workers often feel powerless in their ability to communicate and address such issues.
However, this cycle of cyberbullying and fear of repercussions creates a concoction for dishonesty, distrust and disloyalty in the workplace.
Who It Impacts
Around half of respondents to the survey worked remotely, and the findings indicated a real divide in the bullying experiences between remote, hybrid and in-office workers.
According to the survey, 61.5% of remote workers were either bullied or witnessed someone being bullied, well-above the national average of 49%.
While men were found to be the largest participants of workplace bullying against both men and women, they also made up the largest portion of victims.
Victims of bullying also varied by race, with Hispanic workers seeing the highest rate of bullying at 53.8% (as well as being the most aware of workplace bullying), followed by white workers at 47% and Black workers at 45%.
What Can Be Done
Bullying at work is abhorrent, but the mass adoption of hybrid and remote work could magnify the problem if not addressed.
But how can leaders ensure that their harassment policies are reflective of the current era?
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
When leaders have a direct line of communication with all employees, something significant happens. Workplace messaging becomes more transparent and honest, and workers begin to feel a need to be loyal to their employer.
This can be done through an open-door policy that allows workers to bring any potential concerns to their managers with no repercussions. Or provide an anonymous route that gives employees a chance to submit any challenges they are experiencing at work, without putting them in the limelight.
2. Self-awareness is key
As the survey shows that leaders are the biggest perpetrators of bullying, this research indicates a desperate need for self-reflection.
Management styles are on a spectrum, but remote and hybrid management are a beast of their own. This means that leadership styles used prior to the pandemic are not as effective in today’s world.
Think about this:
When working in-person, pushing a meeting back 30 minutes may not be viewed as a big deal as everyone is in the office together.
But for the remote working mom who is strapped for time to pick up her child at school and can’t hop on Zoom, it can make the difference in career progression.
This is because those who were able to show up for the meeting are more likely to be noticed by their higher-ups and could be viewed as “harder working,” while proximity bias could lead to exclusionary behavior on the part of leaders.
By addressing their own internal bias and allowing their expectations of the workplace to evolve, leaders have a better chance of appropriately managing their teams.
3. Use feedback to enact policy changes
Perhaps the most important tool needed to combat remote bullying is to incorporate a feedback system.
Allowing workers at all levels to submit suggestions into ways they believe the workplace can be renewed, decision-makers have direct insight into what could improve culture.
For instance, if there is a pattern of complaints that are coming from a variety of workers about a leader, other higher-ups may be able to introduce strategic policies that prevent this type of harassment from continuing in the future.
Not only does taking feedback into account when making policy-related decisions create a culture of empathy and listening, it is also more likely to retain workers in the long-run.