business bullying - Kara Lambert

There is a growing trend online in attacking business owners. Frankly I’m sick of it. I’m not talking about disagreeing on things or complaining about a product or service. What I am talking about is the growing incidence of bullying of business owners online. So what do I mean?

The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) define cyberbullying as:

Cyber-bullying or stalking occurs when someone engages in offensive, menacing or harassing behaviour through the use of technology. It can happen to people at any age, anytime, and often anonymously.

Examples of cyber-bullying include:

  • posting hurtful messages, images or videos online
  • repeatedly sending unwanted messages online
  • sending abusive texts and emails
  • excluding or intimidating others online
  • creating fake social networking profiles or websites that are hurtful
  • nasty online gossip and chat, and
  • any other form of digital communication which is discriminatory, intimidating, intended to cause hurt or make someone fear for their safety.

They also go on to say that while not all cyberbullying is criminal, there are penalties of up to $30 000 or 3 years imprisonment for serious offences. They also say that all Australian states & territories have laws against stalking.

So while all of these legal protections are in place, my concern is actually why it happens in the first place and what business owners can do.

So while ACORN list what bullying is, it’s interesting to look into what fuels the behaviour. Especially when it’s unprovoked by the business owner. What do I mean by unprovoked? I’m talking about instances where the business owner is bullied by someone who hasn’t bought a product or service and experienced poor workmanship or service. In fact, the often benefit from the free material and their attacks are personal in nature. They could have consumed a whole liturgy of free material, without fear or favour, and then attack the business owner out of the blue.

So why do people bully?

The person doing the bullying wants power or control over the person they are bullying.

But what drives their need for control or power?

I will continue to say that we have 5 key motivators: beliefs, fears, needs, goals, and values. When we become out of sync with these motivators we become stressed and this can manifest in many ways. The two main ways we manifest stress is either internally or externally. Bullies are externalising this imbalance.

So some researchers say that the need for power comes from stress, trauma, learnt behaviours, insecurities. Some of this is an expression of fear. Fear of losing someone, fear of losing control. Some of this is a poor belief and value structure. That could be low self-esteem, that the business owner should be able to take it, that it’s online so it doesn’t matter, that you can’t read tone into online comments so it’s ok.

What I believe is that while they have fallen out of sync with their core motivators, they have also dehumanised the business owner to the business. The sad thing is that they want to be seen as an individual. They are generally personally affronted by something the business owner has done and attacks because they don’t feel like an individual, doing precisely what they feel has been done to them – dehumanised.

In the end, we need to realise that regardless of if the relationship between the business owner and the individual is going well or is a bullying one, we need to remember that there is a person at either end of this. Dehumanising is destructive. To fight this, I encourage business owners to stand up against this. Report the bullying activity to the social media platform (if the bullying is on the platform), report it to the Internet Service Provider if it’s via email, report it to the police, and/or report it to ACORN.

Finally I want to encourage the community as a whole to reclaim the term keyboard warrior from these people. These bullies are not warriors. Warriors protect, defend, and serve. Warriors are strong. I want those who stand up against online bullying to claim the term ‘keyboard warrior’, for we are the warriors in this.

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