Social media is one of the most powerful communication tools in the world today. People use it for many purposes, like staying in touch with friends and family and networking. Unfortunately, social media can also have negative uses, like cyberbullying and harassment.
We may think of these actions as something that only occurs in petty high-school squabbles, but this isn’t the case. People in your workplace can weaponize social media, and if these behaviors go unchecked, they can lead to a hostile workplace environment, whether it’s a traditional or hybrid workplace. To get a better idea of what this might look like, let’s explore some ways that social media can create a hostile workplace.
A hostile work environment occurs when an employee or employees feel scared, unsafe, uncomfortable, or intimated in their place of work. This often occurs through some form of harassment, whether it’s verbal, physical, or visual.
Employees may use their social media platforms to make disparaging, cruel, or harmful comments about their colleagues. When these interactions make employees frightened or uncomfortable, and maybe even adverse to going to work or using social media, it creates a hostile work environment. Employers must establish clear guidelines about the acceptable use of social media, monitor employee activity, and take action when necessary.
Social media can highlight cultural differences and celebrate diversity. However, it can allow people to mock, ridicule, or spread hate about a culture. Continuous disparaging comments based on a person’s protected characteristic—race, religion, or gender—qualifies as harassment and can create a hostile work environment.
Employers should provide cultural competency training and establish clear policies on what constitutes discrimination based on culture. Additionally, employees should be respectful and inclusive and refrain from using social media to spread hate.
We know that stalking is undoubtedly a form of harassment. It’s a surefire way to make someone feel unsafe, and when done by a colleague, it can create a hostile work environment. By cyberstalking, a person can access their colleague’s personal information, such as their location, interests, and friends. Then, they can use those channels to intimidate, harass, or frighten that person.
Employers should protect their employees by creating a non-cyberstalking policy and training their team to be aware of online activity. It’s also important to teach caution about what employees post online for their professional and personal safety.
When an employer or employee disparages, insults, or ridicules another employee, this is a form of public humiliation and can create an emotionally damaging and hostile work environment. The same goes if an employer or employee uses public social media accounts to humiliate a coworker—especially if their colleagues can witness it.
As mentioned, employers must create clear policies surrounding social media, bullying, and harassment. However, it is equally critical to give employees a safe place to bring harassment to light and for employers to make sure this behavior is dealt with.
Unfortunately, employees and employers can use social media to make a hostile workplace in many ways. If you’ve experienced social media harassment from your colleagues, contact the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder today. We’ll put you in contact with one of our hostile workplace lawyers to represent you and give you the legal guidance you need.