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Workplace Cyberbullying: Telework Comes with New Challenges

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Researchers from the University of Tsukuba find factors related to workplace cyberbullying in Japan

Tsukuba, Japan—The nature of the workplace has changed for many people worldwide as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many workers experiencing a shift to teleworking roles. But now, researchers from Japan have found evidence of new negative behaviors amongst co-workers that specifically relate to online interactions.

In a study recently published in BMC Public Health, researchers from the University of Tsukuba have revealed the prevalence and factors associated with cyberbullying victimization in Japanese workplace environments for the first time.

The global increase in teleworking associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more frequent interactions with co-workers online, which may lead to increases in negative online behaviors such as workplace cyberbullying. Workplace bullying refers to repeated harassment, abuse, or social exclusion in the workplace, and victims often find it difficult to defend themselves against such behaviors. However, little is known about workplace cyberbullying in non-western countries, which the researchers at the University of Tsukuba aimed to address.

"The prevalence and characteristics of workplace cyberbullying in Japan are unknown," says co-lead author of the study Professor Daisuke Hori. "Because exposure to workplace bullying can lead to decreased self worth and increasingly negative views of the world, we wanted to investigate the psychological outcomes of cyberbullying in combination with traditional bullying."

To do this, the researchers administered an anonymous internet-based survey of employees in Japan. The survey included questions designed to measure factors associated with both cyberbullying and traditional bullying. They also measured psychological distress, insomnia, and loneliness as possible adverse effects of workplace bullying.

"The results were illuminating," explains Professor Tomohiko Ikeda, co-lead author. "We found that cyberbullying victimization was associated with a number of factors, including younger age, managerial position, higher qualitative workload, and frequency of teleworking."

Furthermore, cyberbullying victimization was associated with increased psychological distress, insomnia, and loneliness.

"Our findings indicate that there are different patterns of cyberbullying victimization. As such, specific populations may be more susceptible to cyberbullying and to negative associated consequences," says Professor Hori.

Given that the prevalence of teleworking is likely to increase over time, the prevention of cyberbullying in the workplace is likely to be an increasing priority. Cyberbullying can have serious consequences, such as higher levels of turnover intention and anxiety, less optimism, worse performance, and reduced psychological and physical well-being. The present findings could be the first step towards developing effective countermeasures against workplace cyberbullying in Japan.

Original Paper

The article, "Prevalence, characteristics, and psychological outcomes of workplace cyberbullying during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Japan: A cross-sectional online survey" was published in BMC Public Health at DOI:10.1186/s12889-022-13481-6


Assistant Professor HORI Daisuke
Assistant Professor IKEDA Tomohiko
Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba

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