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The Toxic Impact of Cyber Bullying – by Gary Sheely

Safety Blog Topic Introduction

One of the Associates at the Safety Institute is Gary Sheely. While I work with the physical and leadership aspects of creating a safe workplace he works to improve the emotional aspects of workplace safety. It is amazing that many people who are considered adults (because they are 18 years of age or older) can become a major problem to workplace safety by using it as a platform to spread fear, hate, and discontent. In this article Gary continues to share his thoughts on workplace violence; in this case the use of technology which was meant to be used for positive communications. – Carl Potter, CSP, CMC

The Toxic Impact of Cyber Bullying – by Gary Sheely

Few things create a toxic workplace culture faster and breed violence better than the toleration of workplace bullying. There is no upside, and everyone loses. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico, finds a direct and undeniable connection between workplace bullying and violence and aggression. In a 2006 study she found that when organizations fail to address bullying, the targets of the bullying behavior often become increasingly motivated to seek retaliation through aggression or violence. But there is one particular form of bullying that has been growing for the last ten years. It has become the most common, and by some studies, the most damaging and disruptive form of bullying….Cyberbullying

Cyber bullying can be one-on-one, where the target receives texts or social media messages directly from the bully. Or, the target may be publicly defamed, shamed, accused or humiliated.

Some Examples of Cyber Bullying

Fake social media profiles can be created in the target’s person’s name, and then embarrassing or inflammatory posts made to the profile. Or, similarly, the bully may hack the target’s password and impersonate them online. Cyber bullies may post Photo-Shopped images of the target depicting them in compromising situations. Rumors or accusations can be spread by email or social media. Bullies may troll the target’s posts with offensive comments. The target may be sent repeated harassing or threatening text messages.

There have actually been many incidents in which websites have actually been created for the sole purpose of harassing the target. In one case in particular, people were invited by the site to bash the target. The victim became aware of it when she began to receive hateful emails from strangers, generated at the website.

Real Harm

A collaborative study by the University of Nottingham and the University of Sheffield in the UK revealed that that the mental distress created by cyber bullying was greater than what was reported from conventional bullying. It should never be ignored!

What you can do

  1. Make sure written workplace policies include a definition and prohibition of cyber bullying.
  2. Develop a “reporting culture” with periodic memos about cyber bullying and a contact person to report it to.
  3. Provide written advice to your workers concerning how to respond if they become a victim of cyber bullying.
  4. If cyber bullying is reported and confirmed, follow through with any discipline outlined by your policy.

Making the workplace physically and emotionally safe is everyone’s responsibility!

Gary Sheely, Associate at the Safety Institute.


Gary Sheely presents to associations and companies to improve understanding of workplace violence to create workplaces where it is difficult to get hurt. Workplace violence in the form of bullying at all levels is a hazard to the workplace. If you would like to find out more about Gary’s work and how he might help your organization visit and learn more. Submit a request for information and Gary will set a time to talk to you on the phone to see if his work is a fit for your organization.

You may also want to purchase a copy of Gary’s book at:

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