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Stuart Lauchlan

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Social media powers bullying in the workplace


More than half of adults believe privacy in the workplace has been eroded with the proliferation of social media. 

According to a new study by AVG Technologies, mis-use of social media infiltrates the workplace with often negative effects on employees’ privacy, forcing many to switch off or limit their use of social networking sites.
To prevent personal information from being circulated at work, many adults are turning away from social media altogether. The situation is not helped by a lack of clarity by employers on whether or not there are social media use policies in place to prevent cyber-bullying and intimidation. 
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“While you can’t completely control what people say about you online, you can control the ‘ammunition’ they have against you,” commented Jenny Ungless, an HR Consultant and life coach. “Being more careful about your posts on social networks or ensuring your privacy settings protect your personal information are just a few steps you can take.”
It’s all a new challenge for both employers and employees, she adds.  “Adults are now finding themselves in unchartered territory when it comes to social media in the workplace,” she said. “Having to ward off colleagues’ romantic advances online, suffer the embarrassment of unwanted personal photos seen by colleagues or have personal details from social networks used against you, are all things that adults haven’t typically had to deal with. 
“We often talk about bringing work home with us, yet little has been done to date to tackle our home-life now being taken into the office and the possible implications of this.”
Key findings from the study include: 
  • Most people feel that social media has eroded privacy at work. In the five English speaking countries (UK, US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand), over 6/10 feel that the use of social networks has eroded their privacy, with 64% in the US and UK thinking this. 
  • Of those that agreed social media has eroded their privacy at work, nearly a quarter (24 percent) now avoid posting on social networks that have caused them privacy concerns, while 23 percent limit their posts. More than half (53 percent) are more careful about what they post.
  • Over 1/4 of workers have felt pressured into accepting a social media friend request from a colleague. This includes 34% in Italy, 30% in Spain and 28% in the US and UK.
  • Cyber-bullying is least common in smaller companies – only 7% of workers in small (less than 100 staff) companies have had rumours circulated about them online, compared to 12% of workers in companies with 1000-10,000 employees. Workers in small companies are also the least likely to have been the target of unwanted romantic advances online.
  • Most UK and Australian companies now have anti-bullying policies covering cyber-bullying. In comparison, only 1/5 French companies have this.
  • Despite the results showing that cyber-bullying is less common in small companies, only 1/4 have anti-bullying policies covering cyber-bullying. By contrast, most companies with more than 10,000 employees do.
  • While 6/10 UK and US employees agree that their bosses are responsible for their personal social media use at work, only 1/4 German workers feel the same.
  • Some 93 percent of UK adults surveyed, believe that sending unpleasant or defamatory remarks to or about a colleague using digital communications constitutes cyber-bullying.
  • Other forms of cyber-bullying include posting negative comments on a social media site about a colleague’s appearance at a work event (79 percent) and criticising a colleague behind their back through email, instant messaging, social media or SMS (69 percent).
  • Nearly one in ten respondents has had a manager use information against them or a colleague which has been found on a social media site. This is highest in the US (13 percent) and Czech Republic (12 percent).
  • More than half (51 percent) of surveyed adults admit they would confront colleagues in person if they felt they were the victim of cyber-bullying. 
  • Some 51 percent  of UK respondents know that their organization has a comprehensive cyber-bullying policy in place. 
  • Half of all adults surveyed (50 per cent) believe their company is responsible for the online behaviour of employees during work hours if they are using their personal social media accounts. 

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One Response

  1. great post

    Social media has led to personal information about people being easier to gain as well as easier to share meaning that privacy can be an issue and is often a talking point in the news regarding Facebook and how they use the data of their users to monetize the network. People don't necessarily have to step away from social media altoghether but rather should just be more careful about the information they choose to share on social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc. 

    Richard Lane, director at durhamlane.


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