Can HR do anything about cyberbullying at work?

Texas federal workers do not have to put up with cyberbullying. Knowing how HR should handle such situations makes for a good starting point for a resolution.

Cyberbullying only happens in middle and high schools across Texas, right? Unfortunately, it is not unusual to hear of grown adults engaging in the new type of bullying in federal workplaces. If you think you are the victim of cyberbullying from your coworkers or managers, HR should know what to do and how to go about it the legal way.

Employers need to define permissible and unacceptable behavior

Federal companies can get ahead of workplace cyberbullying by clearly defining the type of behavior that is okay and the type that is unacceptable. Besides defining cyberbullying, HR should note the right way to recognize and respond to cyberbullying. Of course, every employee may not adhere to this code of conduct, but putting it in place could help bullied employees know whether they have a case.

HR should know what constitutes cyberbullying

HR professionals need to know the difference between cyberbullying and other types of work complaints. Bullying can happen through emails, such as those that insult an employee in the body of the message or correspondence that condemns an employee's work performance.

Text messages also act as a medium for cyberbullying. One example is sending an employee sexual solicitations or belligerent texts. Sometimes, harassing employees can make their messages anonymous.

Another example of cyberbullying is using social media to bully a coworker. Workplace bullies can publicly share embarrassing messages or conversations from a coworker. Passive-aggressive behavior can take place in work social media group messages, another example of cyberbullying.

Launch an investigation

HR has an obligation to investigate all reports of cyberbullying. Besides handling the workplace bully, it may be necessary to offer the bullied employee ways to manage any stress, anxiety or depression the incident triggered. Employee benefits could offer viable solutions.

In regards to the offending employee, that person may not realize she or he engages in what some may consider bullying behavior, despite having read the employee handbook or workplace policy. Coaching or sensitivity training may be necessary. On the other hand, employees unwilling to cease or learn from their aggressive behavior may have to face termination.

Contact law enforcement

Federal employees who feel unsupported by HR or upper management for their claims of cyberbullying may have no choice but to turn to the police. This is especially true for situations involving the threat of physical violence. Depending on the state, there could already exist laws regarding cyberbullying in the workplace. As of this writing, Texas does not have state laws prohibiting cyberbullying at work, only at schools.

Extremely hostile workplaces in Texas and uncaring HR professionals may call for legal intervention. Talking with an employment lawyer may be the only way to resolve an unfortunate workplace situation.