While cyberbullying is one of the hottest topics in today’s digital world, you’d usually think it’s something that affects teens, not adults. And definitely not businesses – emotionless entities, made to make money.
But is that really true?
Business cyberbullying can take many forms, for example, by anonymously placing false stories about the company on social media or on review websites. This can greatly affect that business’ revenues and diminish the company’s reputation.
It’s been observed that cyberbullying affects companies of all sizes, from small businesses to large corporations, such as Starbucks. But while it can be an inconvenience for a large company, cyberbullying may be a death sentence for a small company that doesn’t have an entire PR department, ready to handle the crisis.
I feel bad, you feel bad
There are many reasons why businesses can be bullied online, but most often it’s because it hasn’t been able to meet the customer’s expectations.
Unsatisfied customers are natural and inevitable, and a part of every business. But especially in e-commerce, where a lot of hiccups can happen – you can accidentally ship a damaged or wrong product, a shipment can get lost on the way, and others.
A study shows that people are 52% more likely to share their negative experiences with a brand than to share positive ones.
However, the problem is that sometimes the reviews businesses receive are exaggerated and seem as if they were written in an anger outburst. So to say, if I feel bad – I want you to feel bad, too.
In fact, feeling angry and frustrated is one of the reasons people become bullies. Not knowing how to deal with these sudden and strong emotions, people try to protect themselves from the ”bad guy” by attacking. In this case – by going online and leaving half-true negative reviews.
Businesses have emotions, too
What people don’t think about when leaving all the nasty reviews and comments, is that behind every small business, there are real and living people with very real emotions. While usually, it’s the business owner who’s on the front line, the rest of the team, too, gets affected.
When your team does its best, and yet receives public criticism and is called names, they can start to question themselves and this can seriously affect their self-esteem. While this is especially true in small businesses with a family atmosphere, even in large companies business cyberbullying can affect employee morale and motivation.
So, how can a company protect its employees from feeling not good enough and unmotivated? Here are three suggestions:
Be the leader and show your support
No matter what clients say online, continue reminding your employees that you trust them and their professionalism. Your company may receive some bad reviews, but it must also receive good ones – share them with your people.
In the meantime, if there really is a problem that needs to be solved at a company’s level, let everyone know that you’re going to do it as a team. Such words of encouragement from the business owner can go a long way when it comes to employee motivation because it shows – ”I’m here, I’m in this battle, too.”
Turn your rational mind on
When analyzing your negative reviews, keep in mind the negativity bias phenomenon – a human’s natural instinct to pay more attention to negative information and experiences rather than positive ones.
This means that people may not even remember a smooth interaction with your brand, but will notice the slightest problem or a hitch. That is how the human brain is made, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Edward Peterson, CEO of Smart.Reviews, created his business because he noticed this phenomenon, scrolling through some well-known reviews websites:
Most of the reviews you read on these websites are negative, but they probably represent only 5% of the total number of customers the business has. So, when analyzing your business’ customer satisfaction, there are more aspects that need to be taken into account, not just public reviews.
”The same refers to consumers, analyzing the business’ reliability – besides, mean reviews, there are other things that say a lot about the business, such as years in business, press coverage, and more,” he adds
So, what I’m saying is – remind your team members that the criticism they receive on some review sites or in person doesn’t objectively reflect the public attitude towards them and the brand.
Give your employees a mental break
If the atmosphere in the company gets too tense, giving your employees a (paid) day or a few off to relax and recharge might be the best you can do. Even if that means some losses for the company or a few more bad reviews because of delayed replies to customer complaints, in the long run, it’s definitely worth it.
Employee mental health just recently started to receive the attention it deserves. One of the key takeaways from the Work Health Survey in 2021 is that workplace stress has a great effect on employees’ mental health. While a different study found that as much as 20% of employees have left their jobs due to mental health reasons.
So, what’s a bigger loss – a day of downtime for your business, or a loss of 1/4 of your valuable employees? That’s your math to do.