Pen Still Mightier Than Sword: Cyberbullying Worse Than Conventional Bullying?

By Nick Venable | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

It’s as hard to get a bullied victim to understand just how harmless the world’s douchebags really are, after spewing all their hateful language, as it is to convince a bully that there isn’t anything wrong or punishable about whoever they’re insulting. We’ve all seen it and/or lived through it. Now imagine there’s something worse.

In a study being presented at the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science, Dr. Christine Sprigg, Dr. Carolyn Axtell, and Sam Farley of the University of Sheffield reveal that workplace cyberbullying is just as common as other forms, and works in previously unfounded ways.

Mostly considered a problem of the youth, cyberbullying is an increasingly annoying word that refers to hateful email, texting, wall-posting, or any other negative uses of technology. The research team sent three separate surveys to employees in UK universities, inquiring about their experiences with cyberbullying.

An astounding eight out of ten of the 320 responses claimed to have experienced being humiliated, ignored, or gossiped about online in the workplace at least once in the previous six months. 14 to 20 percent of those responders reported experiencing this harassment once a week or more, a similar rate for conventional bullying. Those in the workplace tended to feel higher mental strain and lower job satisfaction, both worse than conventional effects. I wonder about this, as younger people probably associate the bullying with school, and are that much more bothered by attending.

It was also found that witnesses to cyberbullying were a lot less likely to report any wrongdoings, despite past research that says conventional bullying tends to reduce a witness’s wellbeing. I guess reading an email allows for a dissociation that seeing a face-to-face doesn’t.

The team plans to offer advice to employees for how to handle and avoid this kind of behavior. I’ve never been a victim of ire-filled emails, so I guess I can’t say how I’d react, though I suspect a confrontation would quickly happen, and more than my own feelings would get hurt. But then, for once in my life, the people I work with are all pretty wonderful. At least to my face. Wait, what’s this in my inbox?