Cyberbullying – a Crisis Management Issue

A growing concern among business owners

Cyberbullying has grown from a niche subject into a hot topic over the past few years. While initial discussion of cyberbullying focused on interactions between young people, today businesses can be, and are being, cyberbullied on an increasingly regular basis.

What does cyberbullying look like when a business is the victim?

  • Negative, harmful, or outright cruel posts, emails, etc.
  • Harmful reviews
  • Online threats
  • Revealing personal information
  • Hate pages/forums
  • Constant derailing of conversation on social networks
  • Imitation of victim in order to create negative interactions

The Internet magnifies the power of these bullies, allowing them to share whatever version of the truth they’d like people to see, often bringing others to their aid who are fooled into believing they’re rallying for a good cause.

It only takes one dedicated bully with some skill at social media to make a major negative impact if an organization isn’t prepared.

Did you know?

A Pew Research Center survey found that 73% of adults have witnessed online harassment, and 40% have been targets of online harassment themselves. In addition,

  • 60% of internet users said they had witnessed someone being called offensive names,
  • 53% said they witnessed efforts to purposefully embarrass someone,
  • 25% said they witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period of time,
  • 24% said they witnessed someone being physically threatened,
  • 19% said they witnessed someone being sexually harassed, and,
  • 18% said they witnessed someone being stalked.

Why is cyberbully prevention a crisis management concern?

One of our key criteria for labeling a situation as a crisis is whether it’s harming the bottom line, and between increasing stress on staff and harming a business’ reputation,  cyberbullying can quickly escalate to crisis level.  A single dedicated, web-savvy individual is able to drastically effect online ratings and reviews, as well as motivate hordes of uninformed stakeholders to rally to their “cause” and unknowingly become bullies themselves. Beyond that, the dramatic way in which some incidents are reported by cyber-bullies can become fodder for media coverage.

How does crisis management training help?

Crisis management training helps prevent and reduce the impact of bullying in several ways.

  • Knowing how to properly handle bullies in public forums drastically reduces chance of incurring unnecessary harm to reputation.
  • Ability to create and maintain a “reputation shield” of positive online content help prevent shares or posts from online bullies appearing in search results.
  • Internal communication allows employees to understand and seek help with bullying before it gets to point of physical symptoms, etc.
  • Media training teaches how to properly navigate and even utilize the news coverage that often accompanies serious bullying situations.

From middle schoolers to business owners, from the playground to the boardroom, bullying affects a vast spectrum of people. While the hope is that it never happens to you, being prepared for the possibility will leave you infinitely more capable of handling it without damage to your organization, its reputation, and the health of everyone involved.

Erik & Jonathan Bernstein

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