London: Bullying using e-mails, texts or web-postings to abuse people is as common at the workplace as 'conventional' bullying at schools, says a study. The way cyberbullying influences both the victim and witnesses is more hidden at the workplace, according to study on occupational psychology.
Christine Sprigg, Carolyn Axtell and Sam Farley of the University of Sheffield, with Iain Coyne of Nottingham University, have shone a new light on this relatively new phenomenon.
The study included three separate surveys among employees in several universities in Britain, asking people about their experiences of cyberbullying, according to a statement of Sheffield and Nottingham Universities. "We gave people a list of what can be classed as bullying, such as being humiliated, ignored or gossiped about, and asked them if they had faced such behaviour online and how often," said Coyne.
Of the 320 people who responded to the survey, around eight out of 10 had experienced one of the listed cyberbullying behaviours on at least one occasion in the previous six months. The results also showed 14 to 20 per cent experienced them on at least a weekly basis - a similar rate to conventional bullying.
"Overall, those that had experienced cyberbullying tended to have higher mental strain and lower job satisfaction," Coyne said. "In one of our surveys, this effect was shown to be worse for cyberbullying than for conventional bullying."
The research team also found that the impact of witnessing cyberbullying was different than that seen for conventional bullying. "In the research literature, people who witness conventional bullying also show evidence of reduced wellbeing. However, in our research this does not appear to be the case for the online environment," Coyne said.
"Witnesses are much less affected. This might be because of the remote nature of cyberspace - perhaps people empathise less with the victims," said Coyne.
These findings will be presented during the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) annual Festival of Social Science in November.