8th April 2014

Bullying policies in the public service don't necessarily take into account the 24/7 nature of cyber communication potentially spurring an unregulated level of online harassment, according to the results of a new QUT study.

Felicity Lawrence, from QUT's Faculty of Education, is undertaking a groundbreaking research project looking at the prevalence and impact that negative workplace cyber communication has on employees working in the Australian public sector.

"There is a lot we don't know about cyberbulling in the Australian public service but a preliminary study has found that public servants perceive that this cyber behavior is occurring," Ms Lawrence said.

"It's happening and I guess it is not surprising when we see that schoolyard cyberbullying is occurring in our society.

"These kids are growing up and potentially bringing their technologies into the workplace and potentially the same attitudes."

To delve more deeply into this phenomenon, Ms Lawrence is now looking for thousands of workers in the state, territory and commonwealth public service to take part in an anonymous online survey to pinpoint the rate and impact cyber bullying has on public servants.

"The Australian public sector is arguably this country's largest employer and is undergoing tremendous change, so it is a great time to be asking Australian public servants about cyberbullying," she said.

"From the initial study we identified that today's workplace communication connects people 24/7 through smart phones, tablets, SMS as well as social media platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

"Workplace cyber communication is now inescapable even when on holidays and the existing policies developed for traditional workplace bullying may not necessarily suit the 24/7 nature of workplace cyberbulling."

QUT in partnership with Sheffield University in the UK, has developed an anonymous survey to measure the severity of cyberbullying in the workplace and impact it has on Australian public service employees health and work performance.

"I would expect there are hundreds, if not thousands of cyberbullying instances occurring in our public service, however at this stage we just don't know for sure," she said.

"All I am asking is for public servants working in public sector organisations across Australia to share their perceptions and experiences of this workplace cyber behaviour so we can better understand what is happening in workplaces around the country."

To participate in this anonymous survey go to http://survey.qut.edu.au/f/179689/20e4/

Media contact:
Sandra Hutchinson, QUT Media (Tue, Wed, Fri), 07 3138 9449 or media@qut.edu.au
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901

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