Tackle Online Workplace Harassment

Harassment doesn’t just happen in person. With so many online interactions, virtual harassment is becoming far too common, including in the IT industry.

The anonymous nature of the Internet makes people braver when it comes to bullying, stalking or harassing others. Even if their name is attached, people still feel safer making comments they wouldn’t typically make in public.

In the IT industry, employees often live on computers and mobile devices, making it more common to experience problems in the virtual world. The good news is, there is a way to tackle this issue head on.

Recognize Online Harassment

Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not. For instance, an employee may get an email threatening to release an embarrassing video if the employee doesn’t botch a major project, which could result in the harasser getting a promotion over the victim.

Other times, it’s much more discrete. For instance, cyberstalking may not be obvious at all until the harasser decides to strike. Subtle signs point to the issue, but overall, it’s hard to notice.

SocialMediaToday outlines seven common forms of virtual harassment. While not all of them apply to the IT industry, these are the main ones to watch out for:

  • Cyberstalking – Continuous harassment, threats and intimidation tactics. Sometimes the stalker gathers details for weeks, months or years before harassing the victim.
  • Online Impersonation – Often used to discredit another employee by posing as them and destroying their credibility.
  • Doxxing – Sometimes used as a form of retaliation by uploading private information for the public to view.

Of course, virtual harassment can be the same as standard workplace harassment, coming in forms, such as:

  • Age, gender or race harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Religious harassment
  • Disability harassment

Often times, comments in emails, text messages, collaboration tools, reports and other digital formats are used to harass another employee. For instance, a supervisor may harass an older employee as a way to push them out to hire a younger person that they can pay less.

Tackling Virtual Harassment

The IT industry is already a leader in monitoring communications. It’s not unusual to have tools in place to identify harassing remarks and derogatory words to catch harassment in the act.

This is just the start though. Some communications may not be monitored, such as private texts on an employee’s personal phone. However, that doesn’t mean that harassment is okay, no matter what device it’s received on.

There are two ways to help put an end to virtual harassment. The first is a clear policy that outlines what is and isn’t acceptable and encourages employees to come forward.

The second is an anonymous reporting system for employees to attach examples of the harassment they’re dealing with and report the person responsible. They can block identifying sections, such as an email address, name or phone number.

With IT use growing more every year, it’s important for the industry to work now to make the industry a safer place for everyone. This will help to attract more top talent for IT businesses willing to put the safety and peace of mind of employees first.