Cyber-Bullying: It Happens to Adults, Too

two men fightingMost of the press about cyber-bullying has been focused on teenagers. High-profile cases have shown us a world of Mean Girls (and mean boys) to the Nth degree, to the point where many victims have been driven to suicide.

But the threat of cyber-bullying does not go away when you leave high school, or even when you graduate from college. It happens in workplaces, too, and the consequences can be just as devastating as they are for teens.

Just note this Star story about a victim named Heidi Blery.

She was then in her late-20s, living on the West Coast and working in the office of a car-rental firm. Her ordeal started after a disgruntled customer built a website to rebuke the company.

At first, nobody paid much attention. But then a strange thing happened: this seething outsider began to attract company insiders.

His spite was contagious.

Within a few months, the website hissed with scurrilous gossip and character assassination. These discussions by rogue employees, sometimes more than 100 comments deep, often targeted colleagues.

Blery recalls one thread in which anonymous posters rated her breasts and other body parts as nonchalantly as if they were debating the merits of daylight savings time. Another discussion claimed, wrongly, that she was having an affair with her boss.

…After those message boards plagued her from morning to night, she quit and returned to school. Upon graduating, she sent out resumes, more than 500 in a short period. Nobody called. That’s when she realized the unflattering discussions about her were the first to appear on search engines when anyone – including a potential employer – typed in her name.

When it happens to adults, the legal term is “Cyber-harassment.” But it’s devastating by any name.

There are laws against this sort of behavior in all 50 states. But the behavior continues to persist, often because the tormenters are cloaked beneath a curtain of anonymity.

If you’re the victim of workplace cyber-bullying or cyber-harassment you might find yourself in the same position that Heidi was in: unable to escape because the digital shadow of other people’s defamation is following you around.

When that happens, it’s time to work with a professional to get the offending content removed. And it’s time to take charge of your web presence, building up a profile that tells the world who you are, what you do, and why you’re a great person. You can take back your good name, and your peace-of-mind.