How to actively prevent workplace cyber bullying & harassment

stop cyber bullying

Close the “gap” between preparation and response with active, real-time prevention

Organizations, for the most part, have systematically followed the same approach and strategy for years in their effort to prevent the costly impact of workplace cyber bullying and harassment. Human resources, legal and IT departments would work closely together to define detailed policies, conduct extensive trainings, and implement comprehensive response processes, while at the same time, commissioning the finance team to purchase liability insurance and prepare for unpredictable fees and settlements. Overall, an expansive and critical team effort that extends from the executive leadership down to each employee in the organization.

However, what on the surface has traditionally been relied on as a holistic approach to preventing a cyber bullying and harassment incident, this “prepare, wait, respond” model has always brought with it a passive gap and uneasy “hope for the best” feeling. It is in this gap that culture, humanity and policy/training effectiveness is put to the true test. But we don’t need to add fuel to the research debate to whether organizations are passing this test, we can simply look to the cyber realities that:

  • 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it. (Pew Research Center, 2014)
  • 50% of employees have sent or received emails that include jokes, stories or pictures of a “questionable” nature. (The Radicati Group, Inc., 2012) 
  • 26% of employers fired workers for e-mail misuse and/or internet misuse (ePolicy Institute and American Management Association, 2009)
  • 23% of all workplace harassment is perpetrated by text, email or other cyber methods (Stone, 2013)

It’s not all from the outside

Cyber-bullying is not always from outside an organization, unfortunately it also occurs from within. What often starts as a ‘joke’ can rapidly turn into bullying or other offensive behavior. Frequently, if this is caught in the early stages, before the ‘joke’ goes too far it can be stopped and no harm is done. The same technology which can be used to prevent the bad stuff from coming in, can also be used internally. The actions don’t have to go beyond the sender, where an automated response can remind the individual of acceptable usage of systems. In many cases, the perpetrator doesn’t realize they have overstepped the mark and so a gentle reminder is welcomed. Workplace ‘jokes’ can quickly escalate, bringing in multiple people; stopping it in its tracks ensures that the company can protect its reputation as being a great place to work.

Adaptive Redaction for active and real-time prevention

Organizations can significantly and cost-effectively reduce the risk of cyber bulling and harassment by actively and automatically removing the potential incident in real-time. A gentle enforcement of policies can fill the gap after training but before a crisis response is needed. This enhanced layer of prevention can be simply added by automatically redacting the inappropriate and harmful email messages, images, website URLs, and social media posts shared between employees without disrupting the business.

Employee monitoring and blocking technologies have been available for some time, but the heavy-handed inspection, costs and burden placed on management and IT have limited the adoption and focused predominately on sensitive information leaving the organization and unproductive time spent surfing the web. And while blocking is still an option, the introduction of Adaptive Redaction has made active prevention non-threatening, cost-effective and can act as a digital coach when reinforcing policy training.

Now is the time to be more pro-active in preventing harmful and costly cyber bullying and harassment in organizations. And what's more, its completely possible.

By: Jacqui Summons, Global HR Director, Clearswift

Additional Information

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ePolicy Institute and American Management Association. (2009). 2009 Electronic Business Communication Policies & Procedures Survey. Columbus.
Pew Research Center. (2014). Online Harassment. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
Stone, A. (2013, April 30). Despite all the warnings, workplace harassment still exists. Retrieved from Crain's Cleveland Business:
The Radicati Group, Inc. (2012). Email Statistics Report, 2012-2016. Palo Alto: THE RADICATI GROUP, INC. Retrieved from