Guest blog by Nicki Eyre, Anti-Bullying Advocate
Over the last few months, we’ve all had to adapt to different ways of working. Facing challenges from furlough to working from home; from balancing family needs to managing isolation; from being asked to return to the office to adapting to a hybrid environment. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve shown an extraordinary capacity for change in the face of adversity.
For some, these new approaches to working have brought added benefits that they are keen to see continue, from life/work balance to faster ways to share ideas and information, and even greater inclusion:
“In many ways remote work has equalised opportunities for employees to be heard and seen. In a virtual-work environment, every meeting looks the same, and each person takes up the same screen real estate, from the CEO to the intern.”
Steven Buck, Head of People Science, EMEA, Glint1
For others, it has provided a physical escape from workplace bullying, only to discover that the bullying behaviours have escalated and intensified in a remote working environment.
Workplace bullying is a complex area, covering a huge spectrum of behaviours from rudeness and incivilities to patterns of behaviour that cause trauma and psychiatric injury.
We know that cyberbullying in the workplace already included actions such as sharing inappropriate content including images; public humiliation eg rumours and gossip on social media; excessive emails at all hours; copying people who don’t need the information into emails; leaving people out of online communications in order to isolate them and place them at a disadvantage – to name but a few.
It also has its own sets of characteristics, not least the ability to miscommunicate at speed and to a much wider audience.
So how has the pandemic changed these risks?
Communication is taking more effort as we’ve lost the non verbal and informal. Lack of communication reduces trust and the feeling of psychological safety. Bantering can turn to bullying especially without the nuances that come from non-verbal behaviour or misunderstandings from interpretation of words alone.
We’re taking less time for the social conversations that build relationships – the ones that take place in the kitchen, the corridors, during breaks.
In addition, boundaries between work and home have become increasingly blurred, which influences the way in which we behave online. Maybe some people feel more relaxed with each other as we’ve been invited into each other’s homes, but has that been the experience for everyone?
It appears not for those experiencing bullying. New or intensified bullying behaviours have evolved including increased micromanagement and surveillance; keeping cameras on to constantly watch employees; emails at all hours; asking people to work while on furlough; recording meetings. One to one meetings online with a bully can be even more intimidating, especially when they invade your personal space at home.
In video calls, you may witness disrespectful behaviours such as speaking over each other; arguing; dominating a meeting; people texting each other with private jokes instead of contributing to the meeting; multi-screening instead of participating.
Anyone who has felt bullied will feel their anxiety build and escalate before and during the return to physical environment, where they’re having to come face to face with their bully again.
More online interaction means more cyber-bullying. Less social interaction means increased difficulty in speaking up about it.
What can we do?
If you are the target of bullying in a remote environment, in many ways, it’s the same as if you found yourself being bullied in the physical workplace. Check out my previous blog about 8 steps to take if you find yourself being bullied at work2
Looking after your health and emotional wellbeing remain the highest priority. Don’t delay in seeking external support before you reach the end of your tether, and tip over into trauma.
It’s always best to try and resolve the matter informally if at all possible. That’s where education about bullying is really important so that people understand what bullying is, and what it is not.
If it has been going on for some time, and you feel that you need to make a formal complaint, then you will need to keep records. In some ways, this is easier online as you can save emails, take screenshots, and may have recordings of meetings.
Put in boundaries to protect yourself. For example, where possible try and have two devices, one for personal and one for business. This both minimises personal information leakage and allows you to switch of the business device outside of working hours.
If you are a witness to remote bullying, then you should report inappropriate behaviour or content, and check in with the person on the receiving end to make sure that they are okay.
Video calls are now the norm but need to be well facilitated to allow for appropriate challenges. We must all think about what we post on social media and who we connect with, and the potential impact of the blurring of our worlds on our work and our health.
Most importantly, we need to check our own behaviours on a regular basis.
Do you feel that you have been bullied for a long time? Are you finding it more difficult to manage your emotional responses? Your priority is to re-establish your psychological safety. Seek help NOW.
Had enough? Walking away? Get help to move on.
Are you struggling to cope? Do you feel that you are acting out of character and struggling to manage your team? Seek help NOW.
Are you seeing changes to behaviour in your managers or leaders? Could it be driven by the stress of the current situation? ASK them how they are.
Most of all, communicate and care for yourself and each other.
- https://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/remote-working-shown-to-be-making-more-inclusive-experiences/135511?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=remote-working-shown-to-be-making-more-inclusive-experiences&gator_td=MER848H6rQuPL%2fhr7Wj%2bRXv9RHFuC2HAVp6FqGvbNyDkuXh3xH8UwH649%2fwCriXo%2bDF9CnoYbNNNYf0%2fXpk8XKh3FikE0YBPzyRP7D4vbBIUhs9W3BWkc2J9GtYYTPCc2nVYMlfVd74gvUSOi6MAI3WyWutAQ1L63cTHWVZmP4Q%3dPosted by Monica Sharma | May 21, 2021
Nicki Eyre is an anti-bullying advocate and founder of Conduct Change, an organisation which offers advocacy, campaigning, education and awareness raising about workplace bullying and the need for behavioural change in the workplace.
Having experienced bullying in a previous organisation, Nicki knows first hand the impact of a toxic relationship. Since that time, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness of the impact of bullying as well as offering practical and pragmatic solutions to organisations who want to improve the way that they handle bullying and toxic behaviour. She recognises the scale of the problem at both an organisational and individual level and is able to bring her wealth of experience to her role as a consultant, coach, trainer, and speaker.
Nicki is an advocate of building a workplace which is psychologically safe, with a particular interest in tackling workplace bullying as part of an overall approach to improving workplace culture and wellbeing, as well as helping individuals to Move On.
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