Workplace Bullying: When WOM Goes Viral

Stop Bullying

Photo copyright of Design Demon/Diablo on Flickr

Put aside the sticks and stones. Words hurt and have meaning. The social media age has allowed hurtful messages to travel faster and to more individuals than ever before, often with ramifications. Harsh comments spoken in the workplace are no longer limited to the watercooler.

Companies are proactively taking charge of workplace bullying, because they realize the consequences can hurt their reputation within both the corporation and in the media.

PR.com reports in a January 2014 article that employees leaving individual companies due to workplace bullying can cost the corporation millions of dollars in revenue each year.

Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins

Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins was criticized on social media for threatening his teammate. (Photo copyright of Wikipedia Commons)

Additionally, a Workplace Bullying Institute survey referenced in the article indicates that around half of employees in the United States have seen or suffered from workplace maltreatment.

Companies must take a sharper stance on these issues to prevent incidents from escalating into even more frequent and alarming statistics.

In Fall 2013, harassment within the Miami Dolphins drew national attention when it was revealed that athlete Jonathan Martin was badgered and bullied by teammate Richie Incognito.

Incognito left a voice message for Martin that included insensitive racial remarks, complete with expletives and threatening language.

Sports analyst Dick Vitale represented just one of many who criticized Incognito via social media.

Tweet from Dick Vitale about Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins later suspended Incognito indefinitely.

Joe Philbin, head coach of the Dolphins, said he was “in charge of the workplace atmosphere” and that this type of conduct would not be tolerated.

In this example we see evidence of an entity (Miami Dolphins) taking charge of workplace bullying in full force and making it known that harmful statements should not be allowed.

This video featured by a Fox Washington, D.C. affiliate, later posted by the Bullying Institute on YouTube, further demonstrates the prevalence of present workplace bullying.

Reporter Bob Bernard and his crew were even exposed to bullying while filming the segment, as one bystander said “Fox is fake news.”

The implications of workplace bullying are extreme, leading to stern warnings or even firings. Add negative social media attention and the consequences heighten.

Individuals are not voiceless any longer, they can raise awareness of their troubles. But sometimes taking note of hate speech in the workplace can inspire further hate speech.

Some individuals use Twitter as a platform to criticize others, thus exacerbating the bullying. Harassment is not restricted to a place of employment, but rather extended to the digital realm. The Jerusalem Post recently wrote about how individuals are increasingly holding the haters responsible for their words.

Hate speech can hurt companies’ public relations departments, as they must respond to these spiraling virtual crises of callous language that possess real-world repercussions.

It is vital that individuals use the power of their words, with their brains, to shape smart decisions.

Have you been exposed to workplace bullying? If so, how did you handle the situation? Share your thoughts. 

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2 Responses to Workplace Bullying: When WOM Goes Viral

  1. Emily Wininger says:

    Although I have never been exposed to workplace bullying, this subject reminded me of a recurring segment on Jimmy Kimmel called “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.” The sixth edition came out earlier this week. You can access the videos on Jimmy Kimmel’s YouTube channel.

    For those who are unfamiliar, “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” is literally what the title suggests. During this particular segment of Jimmy Kimmel Live, different actors and actresses read tweets that have been directed to their Twitter account. These tweets can range from something relatively simple such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “my mom thinks that joseph gordon levitt likes a q-tip” to something much more vulgar riddled with profanity. Some of the celebrities simply read the quotes while others have an outburst.

    It is evident while watching this segment it is for humor and one should laugh at the tweets and their respective celebrities’ response. However, there is a larger truth behind Jimmy Kimmel’s mocking introduction. Kimmel discusses how Twitter has redefined the relationship celebrities have with their fans because it provides a direct channel of communication between celebrities and fans. Although they can be nice, Kimmel emphasizes how celebrities receive really harsh words that can actually cause pain.

    As this post points out, cyber-bullying in the workplace is becoming commonplace and it is creating very strained workplace environments and extreme repercussions. Although Kimmel’s segment is not workplace cyber-bullying, it makes me wonder if a segment like this will deter others from the real issues everyday people are facing from social media bullying.

  2. Brett Nachman says:

    Thanks for your comments, Emily. Yes, I would agree that Twitter serves as a platform for ignorant and cruel individuals to share comments they may not typically say in public. The virtual landscape gives people an opportunity to type down thoughts, often without thinking of the consequences. I would imagine that the crueler users may not care about releasing certain harsh statements, but perhaps the immature person who has only done this once or twice might realize the mistake after receiving backlash. I enjoy the Jimmy Kimmel videos, too, because it points out in a sardonic manner how some individuals in our digital society do not put much consideration into what they submit. The biting undertone actually has real-life implications and showcases how bullying can translate across many types of settings – and even to high-profile individuals. I am not sure how much videos like this will deter individuals from continuing these habits, unless the people who post the harsh comments are actually reprimanded for their actions. Thus it can become a cyclical trend of bullying the bullies. There seems to be no right answer, other than to think before you click “enter.”

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