Cyber-Bullying in the Nursing Workplace

Definition of Cyber-Bullying

The advancement of the Internet and the invasion of online communication tools into the everyday life of contemporary people cause new threats to health and safety. Bullying that once was only possible inside organizations or groups now reaches far beyond physical space and emerges in new electronic forms. Cyber-bullying is defined as a non-physical harassment act or intentional aggression “through electronic routes, such as text messages, e-mails, chat rooms, online games, and social websites” that cause harm to the receiver (Hassan, Sheha, Gamel, & Arafa, 2019, p. 102). This phenomenon might occur in any group or organization, including school, college, university, or the workplace. The target of this paper is the issue of cyber-bullying in the workplace. Thus, this specific type of harassment might be defined as “the repetitive and systematic engagement of interpersonally abusive behaviors” with the help of electronic means of communication that harms an individual and the organization (Sansone & Sansone, 2015, p. 33). Overall, cyber-bullying is an adverse phenomenon that has to be addressed at the level of organizational management.

Modes of Communication

Since electronic harassment is performed through online platforms, there arise numerous forms and modes of communication that an abuser might utilize to commit the act of cyber-bullying. It is possible to emphasize two main modes of communication, including interpersonal and impersonal. Interpersonal communication involves a targeted individual and a bully who might exchange messages via texts, e-mails, or social media. The Internet provides an opportunity for impersonal communication so that a bully might remain anonymous in direct communication with a victim or spread rumors in online groups or communities (Hassan et al., 2019). However, cyber-bullying is not limited in its utilization of the communicational tools due to the rapid advancement in the industry of informational technologies.

Effects of Cyber-Bullying to the Individual in the Workplace

Similarly to bullying performed without online services, cyber-bullying causes an array of adverse effects on a victim, as well as on the whole performance of the organization, where the person works. The negative outcomes of digital harassment impact the mental health of a victimized person. The most wide-spread consequence of cyber-bullying in the workplace is emotional or psychological damage to an employee (Sansone & Sansone, 2015). Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most common outcomes that adversely affect victims’ behaviors in the workplace. In the most severe cases, the continuous pressure of a cyber-bully might lead to suicidal intentions (McDonald, Brown, Smith, 2015). Therefore, the emotional disturbance is one of the leading adverse impacts of digital harassment in the workplace.

Another sphere that is negatively affected by cyber-bullying includes medical consequences. According to Sansone and Sansone (2015), the victimized employees are more likely to be absent due to sick leaves and often suffer from “neck pain, musculoskeletal complaints, acute pain, fibromyalgia, and cardiovascular disease” (p. 34). In addition, there are socioeconomic or financial consequences that are determined by absenteeism, unfavorable working environment, financial losses due to possible lawsuits, and unemployment (McDonald et al., 2015). The danger of cyber-bullying is even aggravated due to its omnipresence in digital space at any time regardless of whether a person is at work or not (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 2018). All in all, the scope of damage caused by the analyzed type of harassment is growing with the development of new technologies and must be controlled.

Cyber-Bullying in Nursing

Nursing as a medical sphere where the professionals closely interact not only with their colleagues but also with patients and their families, the threat of being exposed to cyber-bullying increases. As the latest research studies indicate, nurses face an increased level of bullying on a daily basis and are not protected from its adverse effects (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 2018; Hassan et al., 2019). The analysis of the literature allows for making a conclusion that online bullying is a worldwide concern that affects nurses in different countries. As Hassan et al. (2019) found, female nurses are more likely to be exposed to cyber-bullying than to face-to-face aggression. Overall, there are many cases when a nurse is verbally attacked (both personally and anonymously) by patients, their relatives, and coworkers.

The problem becomes even more complicated because a nurse cannot block a patient’s contact on a digital device because it might obstruct healthcare-related communication when the help is needed (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 2018). Thus, nursing ethics and responsibilities expose the employees to the continuous threat of bullying and diminish the quality of services under the pressure of stress and unfavorable working environment. Consequently, the damage is caused not only to the victimized person but also to his or her patients, as well as to the whole organization.

The actions of a cyber-bully, as well as any other type of bully, are regarded as illegal. Today, almost all of the states of the USA have enacted anti-bullying legislation addressing online harassment as a violation of civil rights (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015). A person who intentionally stalks and exposes someone to humiliation or rumors online might be taken to court on the basis of the severity of caused damage. The cases might fall under either “criminal (harassment, stalking, felonious assault, certain acts of hate or bias) or civil (libel, defamation of character, intentional infliction of emotional distress) legislation” and sentenced accordingly (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015). In addition to state and federal laws, the harassment behavior in the workplace is regulated by the organizational rules. In case of violation such inside standards, a cyber-bully might be exposed to punishment (McDonald et al., 2015). One of the issues concerning cyber-bullying is that it is often difficult to track an offender online, which is why most cases are left unaddressed. That is why it is important to identify and report the incidents to appropriate legal bodies.

Cyber-Bullying Preventions in Nursing

Despite the ongoing research in the field of cyber-bullying in the nursing workplace, there is more to be achieved in terms of incidence prevention. Overall, there should be four main directions of action, including “values-driven policy, credible enforcement processes, restorative interventions …, and general and specialized education” (McDonald et al., 2015, p. 5). Initially, the nursing organization should develop a comprehensive description of values and ethical concerns in regards to cyber-bullying. Also, it is vital to raise awareness of the problem among the organizations’ employees. It might be implemented by means of specialized educational courses, printed materials, seminars, and other sources of information distribution. The management of the nursing departments must initiate identifying and investigational procedures aimed at the elimination of cyber-bullying as a threat to a healthy working environment (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015). When nurses are aware of the threat and have a clear vision of how to react to it, they will be able to maintain adequate behaviors in response to online harassment in the workplace.

References

Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal. (2018). Nurses victims of cyberbullying. Web.

Hassan, H. E., Sheha, E. A. A. E. M., Gamel, W. M. A., & Arafa, A. E. E. (2019). Online harassment and cyberbullying victimization and its emotional impacts among female nursing and non-nursing students. American Journal of Nursing Research, 7(2), 102-108.

Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2015). Cyberbullying legislation and case law implications for school policy and practice. Cyberbullying Research Center. Web.

McDonald, D. N., Brown, E. D., Smith, K. F. (2015). Workplace bullying: A review of its impact on businesses, employees, and the law. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 6(2), 1-6.

Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2015). Workplace bullying: A tale of adverse consequences. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 12(1-2), 32-37.