How To Handle Email Bullies

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Cyber bullying includes bullying via any electronic communications method such as text messages, emails, instant messaging, and social media.

It’s bullying when it’s used to threaten or humiliate someone.

The consequences of cyber-bullying are serious, and can be just as significant as the effects of bullying that happens face-to-face.

Cyber bullying is becoming more and more prevalent within the workplace, according to some studies, and workplace bullies are increasingly likely to engage in bullying through email.

If you’re a recipient of cyber bullying, this can affect your work. It can affect the quality of your work and your job satisfaction.

New studies have found that the higher up the hierarchy you are, the more likely you are to be bullied. Dan Ferrandino, Director of Reed.co.uk, considers that it’s because people at the top seem to be juggling pressure from all sides.

So How Do You Handle Bullying Emails?

What you DON’T do:

  • Add someone else to the conversation.
  • Cc anyone into the emails.
  • Bcc anyone into the emails (which includes others in the conversation without the receiver being aware of it.) If you do that, it’s unfair and potentially humiliating. It is in itself a form of bullying.
  • Threaten the bully. This might get you in trouble too.

What you SHOULD do:

  • Stop the email conversation immediately. Stop responding to the messages. Bullies want to get a reaction from you so if you respond, it just makes things worse.
  • Acknowledge to yourself that what is happening is, indeed, bullying.
  • Take some time to heal and reflect that it’s not your fault.
  • Save the evidence. Keep every email, text, or any other evidence from the bully. Record the time and date that each message was sent.
  • Ask for help. If there’s someone to whom you can bring attention to the problem, you can feel supported. Don’t assume that the problem will go away on its own.
  • Pick up the phone. Find a way to speak to the person, using any medium other than email. Take control so your bully cannot continue to bully you.
  • Give the sender the chance to explain what they meant.
  • Try to work together to resolve underlying issues.
  • Try to seek agreement on a less abrupt way of communicating in future.

General rules for email:

  • Be careful of the tone in your own emails. Sometimes communications in email can be misread by the recipient. This might lead to a conflict that can escalate into a bullying situation.
  • Be respectful to people with whom you communicate through email.
  • Be as polite to someone online as you would be in person.
  • Don’t send messages when you’re feeling angry. They’re more likely to be taken the wrong way by the recipient.
  • Use assertive communication instead of aggressive, passive or passive-aggressive communication.

Characteristics of Assertive Communication Style:

  • Be respectful of others, but clear and firm at the same time.
  • Avoid being rude, hostile, blaming, threatening, demanding, or sarcastic. These are examples of aggressive styles.
  • Stand up for yourself, but do it in a way that doesn’t affect the rights or feelings of others.
  • Communicate honestly, but appropriately.
  • Express your feelings and your rights very clearly.
  • Act in your own best interest, while still considering the needs and rights of others.
  • Develop equality and trust in your relationships.
  • Ask for help when you need it.

If you would like a template for responding assertively, you can get one here.

It’s clear that workplace training in email etiquette would help prevent problems arising in the first place.

If you or your company would like training in email etiquette or any other form of business communication etiquette, please feel free to consider the possible courses here and to contact me.

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