Welcome to my home. You’re free to look around, to visit, and chat in any room. You are free to leave anytime. You are, however, not welcome to voice your disdain on my décor, my layout, or start moving things around. If you do, you will be asked to leave.

This analogy is now frequently used to illustrate setting boundaries in our digital spaces. Whether it be our social media platforms, our inboxes, or our websites there is a need to call time-out on those who insist on crossing those boundaries and bullying us in our homes.

Cyberbullying is defined as bullying behavior in the form of intimidation, threats, humiliation, and harassment that takes place through the use of computers, cellphones, or other electronic devices.

Bullying may be associated with youth, but not all bullying ends as children become adults. We now understand that a significant amount of bullying happens to adults and it’s happening more frequently at work. According to Statistics Canada; 40% of Canadians are bullied in the workplace every week.

In a school setting, the “3R” Approach is taught early – Recognize, Respond, and Report. But what about in a workplace?  Do the 3 R’s still apply? They do!

Recognize – If a colleague posts something false or attacks you online, first, pause. Review the message, perhaps it’s a miscommunication. Frequently our interpretation is different than the intention. Can it be ignored? It’s common for a cyberbully to be looking for a reaction. If you get upset, post or say something you later regret, this could hurt your position at work.

Respond – The best practice is to respond rather than react. If it cannot be ignored, take a moment to gather your thoughts. If possible, meet in person and communicate honestly about what you found offensive and that you want it to end.

Report – If the behavior continues, it’s time to involve management. And here’s where we can add a fourth R:

Record – Keep a record of everything. Save all communication for reporting purposes. This includes emails, messages, social media posts, text messages comments etc. This will greatly assist with any internal or external investigations.

Remember threats of death, threats of physical violence, or indications of stalking behaviors are against the law and should be reported immediately.

Should employees be left on their own to navigate the murky waters of online communication? What responsibility do organizations have to support their employees and manage cyberbullying?

Every organization should have clear policies about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Educate and train staff and upper management about bullying and cyberbullying.

If an employee comes to you with a complaint, listen carefully, take it seriously, and investigate the situation quickly and thoroughly. Offer support for the target to help with coping strategies and support via employee benefits.

As for the bully, early intervention is essential. With coaching and willingness on their part, it is possible to overcome personal limitations. If this fails the organization must ensure that the bully is held accountable and disciplined according to policy. That may include termination.

If it becomes too complex to manage internally, it may be wise to hire an outside consultant for unbiased expertise on how to manage the matter according to not only company policy but workplace law.

As we spend more time in our digital home, it is critical that the boundaries are set and enforced from the top down.

Article Contributed by Heather Dzioba of Legacy Bowes