1 in 5 Employees Have Been Bullied Via Messaging Apps At Work

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Nov 21, 2018

1 in 5 Employees Have Been Bullied Via Messaging Apps At Work

New research reveals 20% of workers across the UK have been bullied by colleagues via messaging apps, with more than 1 in 3 suffering in silence

Social media has gained a bit of a mixed reputation when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, with studies urging us to take a break from our phones, whilst others indicate our online use may have less of an impact on our mental health thank we might think.

According to new research released by Totaljobs, social media messaging apps and sites may be having a significant, negative impact on the UK workforce.

In a recent survey of over 3,000 employees across the UK, it was revealed that 20% of employees have been victims of workplace bullying via messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Slack and Facebook Messenger.

Findings revealed worrying trends across the board, such as individuals being as likely to be bullied in relation to personal circumstances (45%) as they are for their professional performance (44%). More than one in 10 (15%) experienced bullying due to their sexual preference, while a further 12% reported their gender was a cause for being targeted.

1 in 12 employees experiencing work-related bullying via app have quit their job

Figures also showed more than a third (34%) of those being bullied through a messaging app attempted to ignore it, avoiding both confrontations with their bully and attempts to resolve the issue with their manager or HR.

One in 12 (8%) have gone as far as leaving their job as a direct result of the bullying they have experienced through messaging apps.

With the prevalence of messaging apps used in the workplace – an overwhelming 90% of respondents reported using them regularly to communicate with colleagues – these new figures suggest an unsettling trend amongst employees.

Are we being app-solutely professional?

On average, UK workers are in five group chats with colleagues compared to several with friends and family. However, employees admit to struggling to remain professional whilst using popular messaging apps for work-related conversations. 42% admitted to being less careful about what they say via written messages compared to face-to-face conversations.

When asked, nearly a third (29%) admitted to not planning messages before they sent them, instead simply writing as they think. Unsurprisingly, this had lead to almost one in five (18%) regretting something they have said, 19% admitting to moaning about one colleague to another via messaging app, and 16% gossiping behind colleagues backs.

27% said they had shared or said something regrettable in a work-related group chat that went on to cause arguments with colleagues, with a further 25% losing standing in the eyes of their colleagues. One in six have gone as far as to receive a formal warning or have gone through disciplinary procedures as a consequence of their group chat, while 7% were forced to quit their job as a result.

Silver linings

Messaging apps are still held responsible for many improvements across our day-to-day work. 81% of us think messaging apps have positively impacted our teams, whilst 66% think they have improved their company culture, providing an easy way to organise social events with colleagues and strengthen work bonds.

A further 79% expressed feeling that messaging apps have positively impacted collaboration, 43% report faster problem-solving thanks to app chats, and 39% use them for collaborating together outside of traditional working hours.

Despite the positives, many respondents shared further concerns around the impact on their personal lives. Thanks to messaging apps, 53% continue to communicate with colleagues whilst on annual leave, and 43% continue answering work messages whilst sick.

Martin Talbot, Group Marketing Director, at Totaljobs, shared his thoughts on the findings:

“A huge 90% of workers are using messaging apps to communicate with colleagues. Although our research shows the platforms are often an efficient and collaborative means of communication, the immediacy of them can also cause people to speak without thinking and act unprofessionally.

“Employees would benefit from a code of behaviour that explains acceptable and appropriate use of messaging apps, and the actions that will be taken in the instance of any breach, which is especially important for work-enabled platforms such as Slack.

“We would encourage employees to check with their workplaces if they’re unaware of messaging guidelines as a first step. If unsure, don’t say anything on a messaging app that you wouldn’t say in person. If you see or experience bad behaviour, speak up, and don’t let colleagues on the receiving end suffer in silence.”

If you are concerned about workplace bullying, Counselling Directory offers advice and guidance for employers on identifying the difference between bullying and harassment, creating policies for your workplace, and what you can do if an employee is being bullied. Discover more at Counselling Directory.

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