Workplace harassment and bullying: how to recognise it and what to do
Harassment and bullying in the workplace manifests in many forms. It can present itself online or in person, and be verbal, physical or sexual in nature.
This behaviour creates an unbearable work environment, but many of us feel unable to report any kind of harassment to our boss or HR manager.
If you are being harassed or bullied but feel too afraid to speak up about it, the best thing to do is to find out more about harassment and bullying. There are organisations that will provide advice and support for free. You can also contact the MeToo team here if you can not find the information you need.
Acting quickly to harassment or bullying will make it easier to put a stop to it happening again. A lot of people do not report abusive behaviour at work for fear of what the repercussions will be, so you are not alone. If you speak up and report it, you may stop it happening to someone else in the future. Also remember that if you see someone being harassed or bullied at work and you report it, you cannot lose your job.
Understanding what is happening to you may help when approaching the issue. Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.
Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:
• The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker or a nonemployee.
• The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
• Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the
It is important to know that if you are being harassed in your work environment, it is illegal and there are laws to protect you. Every country has its own laws and regulations to protect people. Find out which organisations can help you locally and get the advice you need. Please also feel free to share your stories here so that others are aware of what to do and where they can go to for help if they are in the same situation.
Sexual harassment is a serious offense, and it’s more common than you might think. According to a recent survey of 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees conducted by Cosmopolitan, one in three women have experienced sexual harassment at work at some point their lives. But it’s not exclusive to women: A person of any gender can be the perpetrator or the victim of sexual harassment.
Very generally, “sexual harassment” describes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
A lot of the time most people, including the harasser, the victim, any witnesses and sometimes even the employer, do not know what is legally defined as harassment. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable in a sexual way, it is not right.
70 percent of women who experience sexual harassment in their work environment don’t report it, for fear their report would cause negative repercussions both personally and professionally. Regardless of how you think your action will be viewed, sexual harassment should be reported.
Online harassment and bullying
Harassment and bullying online can include hateful speech in emails, instant messages, tweets or other social media platforms. It can range from name-calling to threatening behaviour.
We all know that people feel braver online, which can also make them meaner as they have the protection of a screen. If you are being harassed or bullied online it is a good idea to keep a record of this through saving the comments so that it can be reported and evidenced more easily. Take screen shots, save all emails and keep a file of everything that occurs to make you uncomfortable. This can be provided as proof when you report it.
Bullying is defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute as a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health and your career. It is typically a non-physical form of violence, instead consisting of verbal abuse, gossiping or threats that result in emotional harm.
Indicators of health issues resulting from bullying can include intense job stress, a feeling of being controlled by another person at work and using your paid time off for “mental health breaks” from the misery.
It is not acceptable for a workplace to encourage a culture of harassment and bullying in the workplace whilst having policies which outline that they do not tolerate this kind of behaviour. They must follow the code of conduct and policies to take the right action when harassment or bullying is reported.
Reporting harassment or bullying
Human resources departments are meant to help employees at their companies, especially in serious situations in which employees feel uncomfortable or in danger. If you’re unable to resolve an issue with your harasser or feel that you’re in immediate danger, it’s time to seek help from HR or your boss.
Often people wait, either because they are afraid of other people finding out, or possibly because of retaliation or negative consequences to them.
Most HR departments take harassment allegations very seriously, and at the very least, they will launch an investigation. However, for disciplinary action or termination to occur, there typically needs to be a direct witness or hard evidence against the harasser.
Examples of hard evidence are: emails, texts or other forms of written communication. Any verbal communication will have to be supported by an eye witness to be considered plausible. If there is no evidence to prove harassment or bullying, a note can be placed in the employee’s file to document the incident in case there are further similar situations. It is important that your workplace investigates thoroughly and takes any claims seriously to ensure that they take the best course of action with the information they have while being fair to all parties.
Remember, if you feel uncomfortable about something or suspect that you might be involved in some form of harassment or bullying, talk to someone and report it to HR or your boss. You can also get in touch with ELTtoo for support and advice if you are unable to get the support you need at work.
Your safety starts with you. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help.