If like me, you thought trolls were fairy tale creatures, who dwell under bridges, then you thought wrong! These days, the word “troll” has taken on a whole new meaning.
According to Wikipedia, “a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous ….messages in an online community, ……with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response ….”.
In real terms, a troll is the modern day equivalent of a bully. Trolls use the freedom of the internet to bully others, cowardly, from afar. This allows them to gain power in a world of fantasy.
Trolling can be serious and disturbing, e.g. in the case of Sean Duffy who was jailed for 18 weeks for posting abusive images to online memorials dedicated to dead children.
Trolling can also be less severe but can still have a damaging impact on the victim e.g. an employee being cyber bullied in the work place.
The sad truth is that trolling is becoming an epidemic. Cyber bullying in the workplace is also on the rise. In November 2012, an academic survey: ‘Punched from the Screen’, found that eight out of ten employees had suffered some form of cyber bullying in the previous six months. The results are shocking!
Given the massive growth in the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s hardly surprising that cyber bullying is increasing – it’s easily accessible and can be done anonymously.
Some say that trolling is different to cyber bullying but the impact is the same, hurt feelings and embarrassment to the victim.
What should you do if you are being cyber bullied at work?
Victims are often reluctant to report a bully as they fear the situation will get worse.
If you’re the victim of a cyber bully, you should:
- Notify your employer – Most companies monitor employees’ internet use/have policies on email content.
- Keep a journal recording the bullying.
- Keep evidence of the bullying – Most companies should be able to locate the source of emails, so the culprit, if they’re a work colleague, can often be caught.
- Not engage with the bully – Most cyber bullies gain satisfaction from the victim’s response.
There are UK employment lawyers who can help protect you against harassment and discrimination. If the bullying is related to a specific characteristic e.g. your sex, race or disability, you may be able to bring a claim for discrimination and/or harassment. If the company is aware of the situation and does nothing about it, you could also have a claim for constructive dismissal.
Remember -You don’t have to put up with bullying in any form.
Always seek legal advice before taking any legal action.
Marsha Thompson is an employment lawyer for Slater & Gordon UK Lawyers. As well as the area of Employment Law, Slater & Gordon also cover Personal Injury, Medical Negligence and Family Law.