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The Internet can provide an ideal medium for cyberbullies, individuals whose aim is to gain gratification from causing distress to others. Increasingly this is being seen as a means of not only highlighting dissatisfaction with an organisation but also targeting the employee seen to be responsible
Often, the sender can be identified, particularly when in the form of emails, but the internet also offers anonymity for those with the knowledge and ability to post information about individuals along with inaccurate or exaggerated information.
Photographs have been known to be posted on sites and of course there are legal solutions to these extreme situations. However, the impact on staff and their personal lives can be distressing as well as affecting productivity in the workplace.
Clear policies outlining steps to be taken can help staff respond appropriately and provide a means to assess the level of the problem and take appropriate action.
Flame mail is an email whose contents are designed to inflame and enrage. Hate mail is hatred (including prejudice, racism, sexism etc) in an email.
This may include projection, false criticism and patronising sarcasm whilst contributing nothing of any value. It may also include a common tactic of "a number of people have emailed me back to agree with me".
They also advise those receiving abusive posts or hate mail from someone on a bulletin board or website to use the 'report this post' function, inform a moderator or mail the your employer’s admin team.
Persistent abusive emails can be forwarded to abuse@isp where "isp" is the service provider the abuser is using, eg "aol.com" or "yahoo.com".
Although Internet service providers may not act on every complaint, the more complaints they receive about a particular individual (with examples of abusive email) the more likely they are to close down the person's account.
However, the first rule for dealing with this type of behaviour is: don't respond, don't interact and don't engage. This is not as easy to do as it sounds. It's a natural response to want to defend yourself, and to put the person right but doing so only inflames the situation and provokes further responses.
The second rule is to keep all abusive emails. Create a new folder, perhaps called "Abuse", and move hate mail and flame mail into this folder. You don't have to read it. When the time comes to take action, this folder of hate mail and flame mail is evidence.
Cyberbullies, are obsessive people and if their account is closed down they may start sending mail from another address. This can later be compared to the abusive emails already received to identify the perpetrator as the same words, phrases and strategies occurring.
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