An independent survey commissioned on behalf of Novell has identified an 'explosion' of bullying and abusive e-mails in the workplace, leading to stress, loss of confidence, and reduced productivity. In some extreme cases, employees have been so traumatised by abusive flame mail that they have left their jobs.
The survey was conducted by the Andrea Adams Trust, a new charitable organisation set up to fight bullying in the workplace, and named after the late campaigning journalist who first identified and publicised office bullying. Of the 1,043 respondents, over half claim to regularly receive flame mail and, according to the report, "The majority of respondents (54 per cent) are electronically bullied by their superiors and primarily by immediate managers. Men are the biggest bullies, being five times more likely than women to flame others."
A Novell spokesman said that there was also evidence of racist and sexist abuse via e-mail and the firm has released its internal "10 Commandments" code, for others to consider. The commandments take the form of various do's and don'ts - suggesting that managers should not use e-mail to avoid face-to-face communication and difficult matters; that e-mail shouldn't be used as a substitute for managing people; and that users should never "send sexual or racially biased e-mails or voice mails, or e-mail rashly or out of anger."
Research carried out by PC Daily News suggests that the Novell survey may be overstating the incidence of abuse by email. In a straw poll conducted at Ziff-Davis, the publisher of PC Daily News, where over 150 employees are connected using Lotus Notes, the vast majority of respondents did not feel that their own personal experience matched the findings of the Novell survey.
A Novell spokesman said Novell will be presenting the results of the survey at a national conference on bullying in the workplace on Thursday, June 5 at Staffordshire University.