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Understanding Red Flags and How to Stay Proactive

Online abuse, or virtual harassment, has been prevalent in our society since the dawning of the internet. While today, it’s become more realized in both private and professional settings, it’s not always obvious to pick up on. Whether we call it cyberbullying, trolling, or gaslighting, it comes in many unsolicited forms of harmful behaviour. These can be categorized by levels of severity ranging from borderline inappropriate to severe harassment.

Blurred lines, innuendos, sexualization, rude comments, and overall inappropriate communications, gestures, or other digital communication have no place in the office, but since the workforce transitioned to remote work, the opportunities for inappropriate, harmful behaviour was given room to manifest.

According to an online survey by a non-profit group that advocates for diversity among workers in Silicon Valley, the tech community has reported an increase in harassment that is focused on gender, race, ethnicity, and age.

 “For example, more than 1 in 4 respondents said they experienced more gender-based harassment. That figure increased, when race and gender identity were accounted for, to 39% of Asian woman and nonbinary people; 38% of Latinx woman and nonbinary people; and 42% of transgender people.” – Shannon Bond, NPR, Remote Work Is Leading To More Gender And Racial Harassment, Say Tech Workers

Spotting Red Flags of Harassment in Remote Work

Workplace harassment comes in many forms, some more obvious than others, but all are unacceptable. Here are some of the most common red flags to look out for if you are working remotely or have a hybrid work model.

  • Not respecting boundaries (e.g., reaching out to colleagues during off-hours)
  • Lack of trust from employers caused by the “remote work stigma
  • Inappropriate comments about appearances or home environment
  • Inappropriate language, use of obscenities, or gestures
  • Tone, jokes, or innuendos communicated unprofessionally
  • Sending inappropriate comments via work channels (chats, texts, etc.)
  • Too many messages on team chats (spamming employees)
  • Alienated remote staff
  • Forcing camera on video calls
  • Messages, phone calls, texts, or emails that fuel hostility

Unfortunately, one of the most significant aspects of remote work is how unprepared employers are when it comes to addressing policies and protocols surrounding not only workplace harassment, but basic virtual employment standards as well. Whether it’s HR not modernizing fast enough or employers digging in their heels on the concept of working virtually, the act of reporting compliance on virtual platforms is unnecessarily difficult, even more so now than before the pandemic. So, where do we go from here? It’s crucial for employees to have a safe outlet to use when they feel uncomfortable, and in the same vein, employers must be accountable for their mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

As online harassment continues to develop in remote work, if you have witnessed these or other forms of online abuse or simply want to stay ahead of the curve of the challenges these issues could cause, there are steps to take as a leader to tackle virtual harassment before it develops into a serious workplace conflict.

  1. Prepare – get to know what online abuse looks like and have policies in place that address them
  2. Establish a remote harassment policy and communicate it to all employees
  3. Create channels enabling employees to file reports and explain the process clearly
  4. Create procedures for how these will be handled and explain the process clearly
  5. Address concerns swiftly and thoroughly and follow up with parties involved
  6. Research and hire an unbiased party to manage and mitigate conflict

If your organization is experiencing virtual harassment or other workplace issues, consulting with a neutral mediator will resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants involved to settle on an agreeable solution and move forward.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established a process that aims to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows everyone involved to focus on getting back to work and continue making a positive contribution to their organization while leading a fulfilling role in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions to get started with neutral, knowledgeable, and effective mediation and facilitation services.

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