When we hear the word “bully,” we often associate it with some not-so-pleasant childhood experiences. But bullying is not just a childhood thing. In fact, it can exist everywhere: in the workplace, online, and even on LinkedIn.
Bullying doesn’t go away just because we get older. LinkedIn is a platform for professionals, but I’ve observed that even the most seasoned professionals can become targets of bullying. In some cases, they might even be the bullies themselves.
It would be nice to think that when we join LinkedIn, we are strong, powerful leaders ready to face anything thrown at us as; we’re models, so to speak, with a wide range of armor, capes, knowledge, and resilience that will certainly save us from any adversity thrown our way.
The reality is that LinkedIn is made up of many powerful leaders — who I refer to as “superheroes” — who span the globe and have amazing stories to share. But, that does not mean we must weather anything thrown our way.
LinkedIn bullying happens; it’s just often less obvious or may be completely unexpected. I’ve found that bullies on LinkedIn tend to unleash their power by:
- Undervaluing content from those they consider to have less knowledge and experience than them.
- Trying to prove that others are not good enough by putting them down and slashing their credibility.
- Calling others out and challenging their content in a negative, sarcastic, and demeaning way.
- Indulging in name-calling.
- Humiliating and embarrassing others, spreading rumors, and intentionally excluding targeted people.
- Negatively commenting on posts and stirring things up to get other bullies to follow the pack.
- Discrediting others’ work.
- Preying on peoples’ vulnerability.
This behavior is never OK, no matter the platform.
I love LinkedIn. It has positively impacted me in so many ways. As a coach who specializes in maximizing your success on LinkedIn, the networking site not only helped me find my voice, but it has also been the catalyst to so many amazing opportunities, both professionally and personally, that probably would not have happened otherwise. It is that LinkedIn glue that I enjoy; it can cleverly weave together a global community, or LinkedIn “PeoplePod” as I like to call it. These communities are made up of relationships that could not be any better or stronger if you hand-picked everybody yourself. But unfortunately, others can get in — others you might not want hanging around.
I have learned the art of navigating LinkedIn. I think that being bullied as a teen helped me develop a bully alert system, a skill I appreciate having as one of my LinkedIn “superpowers.” LinkedIn bullies exist, and learning to spot them is a skill that is wise to learn in order to navigate, enjoy and optimize one’s experience on the platform, as well as keeping that sacred PeoplePod intact.
If you are being bullied on LinkedIn:
- Don’t respond to online bullies.
- Block anybody who is practicing the bully behaviors listed above.
- Gather evidence by taking screenshots.
- Report the bullying immediately to LinkedIn, which does not tolerate abusive behavior.
- Avoid feeding what fuels the bullies, as I’ve found they are usually looking for a reaction.
- Take the experience and turn it into something purposeful and positive.
Even if it isn’t happening directly to you, be someone who stands up against bullying. LinkedIn is a place for all of us to own professional space. It’s an important online piece of real estate where we should all feel safe and secure to brand ourselves professionally, build relationships, add content, share our stories and be our authentic selves without the fear of having our vulnerability exploited by bullies.
We might still mainly associate bullying with our childhoods when certain well-known “bullies” would frequent the playground. But, cyberbullying is on the rise. And, though it can be more subtle online, it exists and can hurt. This is why I believe it’s important to make yourself aware of what online bullying looks like and where it exists.
You can even take things a step further and participate in National #BlockItOutDay, an initiative typically held in November to block bullying from our online presence. According to STOMP Out Bullying, more than 2.5 million people participated in #BlockItOut day in 2018. In 2019, that number reached 3 million.
When I was a teen, I lost my voice offline due to bullying. So, as an adult, I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening to my voice or others’ voices online. LinkedIn, specifically, is a space where we all can add value, change lives, provide thought leadership content, teach, support, and build a community. Help one another rise up to become LinkedIn superheroes. Bullies are not welcome.
This article originally appeared on Forbes and is a featured here with Author permission.