Bullying is an age-old problem, but in the digital age it has taken on new forms, and has a much wider reach. Although it continues to make the headlines, cyber bullying is much more than a hot topic, it is a very real blight on many people’s lives.
Just as the spread of technology has meant that it is increasingly intimately involved in different areas of daily life, so cyber bullying has stretched out its tendrils and is affecting people, businesses and organisations.
Here, Mark Cushway, entrepreneur and business leadership coach, discusses the impact of cyber bullying where it has extended into the business world.
The Spread of Cyber Bullying
“Bullying is alive and well, and, if you’re an adult, it takes a different form than when someone used to routinely steal your dinner money at school. This different form of bullying is digital.”
Most of the statistics, and news, to do with cyber bullying focuses on young people. BullyingUK reports that 43.5% of the children it surveyed said they had been bullied on social sites, and 56% said they had witnessed online bullying.
“Social media is not restricted to the young, and for many businesses, it’s an essential channel for marketing themselves and communicating with audiences. Within this context, unfortunately, cyber bullying is also happening.”
Engagement and openness are key qualities for brands wanting to boost their digital marketing through social media. However, these same channels also provide opportunities for cyber bullies.
“Digital opportunity can turn into digital crisis, with cyber bullies launching attacks on businesses, which leave them reeling and facing an uphill struggle to reassert their brand and restore its reputation”
Cyber bullies will often be trolls, intentionally provoking others through online comments designed to offend others, or inflame their emotions.
“These comments can quickly go viral, which means they aren’t realistically containable. Businesses and organisations on the receiving end report how employees can feel personally attacked when this kind of thing escalates.”
Identifying the Cyber Bullies
Because so much online communication is now about creating two-way dialogues, it is vital that companies can identify cyber bullies, and distinguish them from other online users.
“If you’re looking for feedback, you must be clear what are legitimate comments and complaints, which you should actively respond to, and what looks like the start of something far worse.”
“Cyber bullies will make statements that are designed to spark conflict, start arguments and make others angry”
There may be a lack of detail, or clear demands, but a lot of ranting. Their language may be littered with swear words, or be racist or sexist. It often appears inappropriate and disproportionate.
How do you Cope with Cyber Bullying?
“A digital crisis can unfold incredibly quickly, so it’s vital to plan in advance for this kind of issue. It’s also important to try and identify whether these are isolated incidents involving comments and attacks, or it they are a well-coordinated cyber bullying campaign.”
“Defusing the situation is essential. This means staying on-brand with your responses but allow for some flexibility. In some situations, the only viable response is to ignore the cyber bullying and focus instead on reputation-building.”
“The business response to cyber bullying must be to take it seriously, because reputational damage is a very real threat,” concludes Mark. “Be strategic, and consistent in dealing with it.”
Business Aspects Magazine appreciates Mark Cushway’s insight, to help businesses deal with this issue.