It is sometimes difficult for managers to know what best to do in the event an employee is faced with harassment or threats. Interviews with scientists who have had to deal with threats consistently show: the reaction of the immediate supervisor is very important for the support the employee experiences. This continues to work through long after the incident.
The action points below come from PressSafe and other sources, and have been discussed with the police, professionals inside and outside the institutions and staff members who have faced threats or intimidation in the past.
Always be aware of your colleagues’ (mental health. Intimidation, hate speech or threats can have a major impact. Be aware of this and offer specific support if an incident is reported, or if you notice that a staff member needs help.
Guide on tackling threats and intimidation against scientists
Want to read more about what employers, managers and staff can do in tackling threats and intimidation?
What can you do as a manager?
Take the situation seriously
Acknowledge and emphasize with the seriousness of the situation for the staff member concerned.
Make sure that a report is made to the police on behalf of the staff member in the event of a threat. Involve the security department, for example.
Offer practical support in case of online threats
Ask whether the affected staff member would like the communications department to collect all the offending comments.
Ask the communications department not to tag staff members in posts by the institution if they prefer not to be tagged.
Monitor social media comments and remove threatening and intimidating comments as quickly as possible. Report posts or comments to the relevant social media platform. Remember to make screenshots first as evidence.
Support and reassure
Many people who have experienced hate speech or threats feel that they themselves may be to blame for these insults and threats. Reassure the staff member that they have not done anything wrong.
Consider making a public statement of support to the staff member, if necessary. This is particularly relevant for serious threats or when there are numerous hateful comments.
Threatened staff members often feel very lonely, so make sure they have a social safety net. Involve direct colleagues if appropriate. This will make the staff member concerned feel supported.
Make sure the staff member receives good follow-up and aftercare to improve their feeling of safety and well-being.
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