Bullying in the workplace can be a tough situation to deal with. It can make it difficult for you to get your work done, as well have an impact on your mental wellbeing. If any of the bullying is taking place through digital communications such as text, voicemail, email, social media, messenger or websites/blogs, we can talk to you about some options that might help you.

If the bullying involves someone harming you physically or threatening to, this may be a criminal offence and should be dealt with by the Police. You can either visit your local police station in-person to file a report. If you’re in immediate danger, dial 111.

What does workplace online bullying look like?

Workplace bullying could come from a manager, co-worker or even a customer/client. The bullying is directed at an individual through a form of digital communication such as text, email, voicemail, social media, messenger, or published on a website/intranet. It could include:

  • Attacks that may be direct and personal, but they may also be implied or task-related.
  • Receiving threats, intimidation, or being blackmailed.
  • Spreading harmful rumours.
  • Personal attacks based on colour, race, ethnic or national origins, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Sending or publishing sensitive personal information such as embarrassing or intimate photos or videos.
  • Encouraging others to bully or harass someone.
  • Encouraging someone to hurt themselves.

What to do if you’re being bullied online at work

  1. Don’t reply or attack the person back: Avoid giving the satisfaction of a reaction.
  2. Have a conversation: If it’s safe to do so, try talking to the person privately about what they’ve said or done.
  3. Escalate the issue: If it’s appropriate, follow your organisation’s procedure for bullying. You might also want to consider talking to your manager or HR department.
  4. Get some support: Talk to friends, supportive co-workers and whānau – or you can reach out to YouthlineLifeline or others support services.
  5. Save messages and images: Take screen shots of the bullying in case you need evidence later. Find out how here.
  6. Cut off the person bullying you: Block them where you can –  block their phone number, or block them on social media.
  7. Report it: If the online bullying is happening on social media, you can report the content to the platform that it’s on.
  8. There is a law to help: Netsafe offers assistance under the The Harmful Digital Communications Act which aims to help people dealing with online bullying, abuse and harassment.
  9. Get help: Contact us for help. We can help with any of the above, tell you if there’s anything you can do to stop the abuse and let you know how to stay safe.

If you are being discriminated against in the workplace by an employer, you can also think about raising a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act 2000, or making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. Find out more about these processes on the Employment New Zealand website.

If you are being sexually or racially harassed in the workplace, there are options available to you under the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1993. Find out more information about these processes on the Employment New Zealand website.

How can Netsafe help?

Netsafe can help with the aspects of workplace bullying that are taking place using digital communications. We can give you information about actions that you could take to minimise the harm to yourself. We also offer options such as mediation where it’s appropriate.In some circumstances, we can make a report on your behalf to try and have harmful online content taken down from online platforms.

If you’re not sure what steps to take next, get in touch with us and we can let you know what options are available to you.

You can contact us for advice by: 

  • Emailing help@netsafe.org.nz
  • Calling 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
  • Filling out a report form at netsafe.org.nz/report

Our helpline is open from 8am-8pm Monday – Friday, and from 9am-5pm on weekends and public holidays.

More information