Think Before You Click the Send Button
Whilst recognising the problems being faced by young people at school at the hands of the cyber-bully, we should not forget that many people at work also suffering the same difficulty. Often in the form of abrasive management, it is not as readily accepted as bullying, but can nevertheless have a devastating impact on those on the receiving end.
“How many emails in a day is it acceptable to receive from your manager”? I was asked during a telephone advice session. Obviously the context would need defining, I explained. But this person went on to tell me that he was receiving in excess of forty emails daily – each one including a copy of the previous one with a subject of “Has it been done yet!” Clearly this is not acceptable.
If the question was one of capability, there is an acceptable way of managing it. If it was about not meeting deadlines, then another procedure should have been employed. In this occasion, it was just about putting the person under undue pressure, to the point that she was about to walk out of her job; it appeared that this was in fact the manager’s aim. To be specific, the manager was fairly new in post and the woman had been there for over five years. She was much liked by her colleagues and had got on very well with her previous boss. The new manager seemed, from the outset, to want to challenge her popularity and her success – presumably thinking this would bolster his position.
The situation got me wondering about emails. If a person is asked by their manager to do something (by email) when does it become ok to receive a second request? Should each written request have a timescale attached hence “please could you get that to me by tomorrow”? If not possible, then another procedure for the worker comes into play. It is certainly unacceptable to send a continuous steam of messages demanding immediate action. What happens to a person’s own to-do list?
I advised this person to inform her manager and his manager that she was only prepared to undertake tasks from her agreed work plan and that she would only manage emails at 9.00am and 3.30pm. Apart from those times she would keep her Outlook shut down. She also asked her manager to copy his manager in on all future emails. Needless to say the torrent stopped – almost immediately.
So what is cyber-bullying? It does not have to be abusive or threatening, as we are lead to believe happens in schools. I believe that any use of modern communication technology to be aggressive, over-assertive or abrasive constitutes cyber-bullying. So the bosses/managers amongst you – think before you click the send button!