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Friend or foe?

01 April 2019 Jonathan Faurie

We often hear that insurers need to be wary of their employees as they could be the source of data leaks that could be potentially devastating to a company.

This often comes in the form of disgruntled employees. However, at the recently held South African Insurance Crime Bureau (SAICB) conference, it was pointed out that employees are often part of syndicates and that workplace intimidation may be a major cause of data breaches. 

Keep a keen eye

Professor Gérard Labuschagne, a Director at L&S Threat Management, pointed out that managers cannot be blind to the intimidation that can happen at the workplace. 

“Workplace intimidation can happen at any workplace because conflict is part of human nature. Humans bully and intimidate each other because they want to assert their dominance. Employees with calmer personalities and softer demeanours are often the target of intimidation and need to be protected by management,” said Prof Labuschagne. 

Sounding the alarm

One of the biggest myths that is associated with workplace intimidation is that it happens out of the blue. Prof Labuschagne pointed out that there are a few things that companies can keep an eye on when it comes to identifying instances of intimidation. 

“Employees often raise red flags long before an incident occurs. Managers should look out for a change in an employee’s attitude. If a happy, positive employee becomes silent and withdrawn, it is probably because of some form of intimidation. Further, managers (where possible) should keep an eye on social media posts as people often advertise that they are disgruntled long before an incident takes place,” said Prof Labuschagne.                                                                                                                                          

He added that we need to bear a few facts in mind when it comes to profiling workplace intimidation. “It is estimated at 80% of employees have been bullied or victimised at least once in their careers. Further, four out of five employees have experienced hostile behaviour in the workplace,” said Prof Labuschagne. 

This may be because one employee wants to assert their dominance over another. However, in a world where crime is run by syndicates, it is not far fetched to assume that employees may intimidating others because they are working for syndicates that are after key pieces of data that insurers hold. 

Turn to social media

A key part of the investigation into workplace intimidation is social media. Humans are increasingly living their lives online and are not reluctant to share intimate details of their lives with complete strangers. 

Prof Labuschagne pointed out that one in every nine people in the world are on Facebook. Further, there are over 200 million Instagram accounts in the world and almost as many Twitter accounts that are active daily. 

“We need to remember this essential truth about social media. Popular people make connections in the real world. Less popular people compensate for this by over indulging in virtual networks (social media),” said Prof Labuschagne. 

It is also important that insurers consider what their social media policy is when it comes to accessing social media sites at the office. Prof Labuschagne pointed out that many online friends that a person has are merely bots and are primed to transfer malware onto computers that will eventually result in information being stolen. 

Law enforcement

When it comes to monitoring the social media feeds of employees, a fine line needs to be taken into consideration.

While social media is technically a public forum, if information is shared between an employee and a specific group of friends on Facebook, the information may be considered as private. 

Further, if a manager was not directly privy to the information and was forwarded the information by somebody else, is there a case for a breach of privacy if that information is acted upon? 

While this may be the case, the relationship between law enforcement and social media has changed significantly over the past five years and it is not uncommon to find out that a police investigation includes accessing evidence presented on social media. 

Insurers need to be aware about the happiness of their employees and whether intimidation is occurring in the workplace. Employees are a major threat and the fact that they may be working for syndicates is a problem. Social media adds another wild card to this equation as humans have developed a desire to live their lives on social media platforms. 

Editor’s Thoughts:
We live in an interesting world where a threat can come from a very intimate place. Are insurers keeping up with the times? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts jonathan@fanews.co.za.

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