Prepare for More Workplace Cyberbullying as Remote Work Increases
Slack and email can both enable bullying. ‘It’s horrible,’ one victim said of her office tormentor.
In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today to give you a better tomorrow.
When you picture a bully, what do they look like? The quintessential bully, to my mind, is Nelson Muntz, Bart’s tormentor in The Simpsons. Nelson is loud, crude, and not particularly intelligent — he has to repeat the fourth grade several years in a row. His nasally voice and honking laugh are infamous. The other most iconic bully in the Western imagination, or at least the millennial imagination, is Draco Malfoy. Unlike Nelson, Draco is conniving, slick, and wealthy. He employs Nelson-like muscle, in the form of minions Crabbe and Goyle, to physically intimidate his victims when mind and magic won’t suffice.
Despite their differences, Nelson and Draco have one crucial thing in common: They’re both kids. The notion that bullying is typically relegated to schoolyard antics is pervasive, and can even be witnessed in the scientific literature on bullying, most of which focuses on children and schools.
Yet adults do bully. Instead of at school, it happens at work. And it can persist as a form of cyberbullying — particularly relevant as so many of us will be stuck doing remote work for the foreseeable future. It happens via incessant, mean Slack messages; it happens via cruel jibes sent to a work email alias; it happens via intimidating after-hours text messages and phone calls. It can significantly damage victims’ self-esteem and even traumatize them or chase them from their jobs or industry altogether, though it’s still under-recognized as an issue many of us struggle with. But trivializing or ignoring bullying reinforces its place in the modern workforce, implicitly signaling to bullies that their behavior will be tolerated.
“It’s horrible,” Rachel, a journalist who requested that only her first name be used to protect her privacy, says of her cyberbullying experience. Bullying…