With fewer people in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic due to reductions of onsite staffing, cyber bullying continues to find victims especially in the virtual workplace. This is not just “Zoom bombing” or video hijacking, the intrusion of an unknown person in your online meeting making obnoxious comments, posting pictures or making other disruptions. Workplace bullying can also occur during regular virtual meeting environment among members on a team. Video conferencing has become a new platform for workplace bullies. Has anything changed? Issues about workplace bullying need to be addressed continuously especially in the new virtual meeting environment.
During times of increased tension and uncertainty at work, bullies may be looking for additional opportunities to engage the vulnerable. Virtual technology may offer bullies additional opportunities to threaten and demean their victims. Unwanted, unkind or threatening remarks during virtual meetings will continue unless interventions and other protocols are in place. Ask if there a workplace protocol in place in your organization for harassment in the virtual meeting space. Include policies on the taking and retention of video recordings and chat records for monitoring purposes, and provide training on workplace civility during virtual meetings.
Consider including some of the tips below as part of the workplace awareness training.
Virtual Meeting Tips
- If you are a work-at-home employee, use a virtual background to ensure privacy and safety during online meetings. Maintaining a neutral environment will help conceal your location as well as personal items that may be used as a target for bullying.
- Close off your camera and microphone until there are others in the meeting. Open the camera and microphone just after the moderator opens the meeting. Contact the moderator or facilitator of the virtual meeting by person-to-person chat if there is abuse.
- If you are the moderator, then you have control over videos, microphones and chats. It is your job to monitor for any abuse and to intervene if necessary. Point out for everyone on the meeting any safety features or protocols for attendees. For instance, there is an ‘Ask For Help’ button in Zoom breakout rooms to invite the host to join a breakout room.
- Ask the host for permission to assign you the ability to record in the breakout rooms before the rooms are set up. You can record any conversation as necessary. Knowing a session is being recorded can help deter a bully.
- Ensure you are not alone in a breakout room or a chat with a known abuser. Arrange for a virtual buddy to be present in the meeting. Ask the buddy to intervene or interrupt if conversation gets personal and is not focused on business matters
- If being verbally sabotaged such as being spoken over, use the Chat to communicate to others so your contribution is recorded. Many chat apps provide an option to send a record of the chat to yourself for further follow-up.
- To capture any visual interference, use your keyboard PrtScn (Print Screen) or CTRL + PrtScn on all versions of Windows. The photo will be saved to your clipboard so you can paste and save it in a file. The function will have the date and time captured. If you use a cellphone and tablet, you will also be able to capture a screen image and will have recording options for audio and video conferencing. Be familiar with these functions and features on your device that can record and support your privacy concerns.
- Maintain your privacy from hackers by avoiding the use of public open networks.
If possible, maintain politeness as you would in a normal face-to-face encounter. There is no need to add fuel to the fire. Remember not to respond to negative posts or messages about you, even if they are hurtful or not true. Report the issue. Bullies want to provoke a response, so don’t give them that satisfaction. Be aware of your surrounding, even in the virtual environment. Be safe.