Types of harassment in the workplace

10 Different Types of Harassment in the Workplace

Workplace harassment is something that gives rise to an abusive work environment. This Buzzle article gives you a list of 10 different types of harassment in the workplace.
"People dealing with harassment stop being their best, stop working, and eventually fail. As an industry, we spend a lot of time trying to counteract attacks on our systems, but we often overlook abuses directed at the people who develop and maintain those systems."
― Julie Pagano, Software engineer, Google
Harassment is a form of abuse. As a citizen, you are vulnerable to any kind of harassment, anywhere. You must have heard of bullying that occurs in educational institutions. It is a form of harassment too. It is certainly a wrong display of conduct and when carried out on a large scale, drags people on to the road to depression. Some even commit suicide. Workplace harassment is a norm that has been surreptitiously going on since a long time. If you have been thinking that sexual harassment is the only type that occurs at work, you are sadly mistaken. There are several types of workplace harassment, a compiled list of which is provided below.

An Overview
  • As already mentioned, harassing a person at the workplace has been a norm for the longest time now.
  • Employee harassment is in fact, common in every line of work.
  • This kind of harassing includes making fun of your colleagues, making sexual advances, making vulgar comments, etc., in short, creating a hostile work atmosphere.
  • Many states have laws that forbid workplace abuse, but it takes place nevertheless.
  • Rude comments, constant leg-pulling, excessive teasing, and over-authoritative behavior also come under abuse.
  • If you are being worked more than what your job profile states and not being suitably appreciated for the same, or if you are being troubled excessively for the minutest of mistakes in your work, it is a form of abuse too.
  • There are several acts in different states that help protect employee rights. If the abuse goes overboard, you need to approach the authorities and take action.
Types of Workplace Harassment

Sexual
  • This comprises inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • It includes sexual advances or sexual favors.
  • Your harasser may come to help you at your desk, and inadvertently rub his hands on your shoulders.
  • Under the pretext of helping you use your computer, he may exhibit inappropriate conduct.
  • Some people ask for sexual favors, i.e., they may offer you a promotion if you get physically intimate with them, or if they know something about you that could destroy your career, they may blackmail you regarding the same and ask you for a sexual favor.
  • Even trying to have a vulgar, sexual conversation and making a person uncomfortable comes under this.
Verbal
  • There are many types of verbal harassment in the workplace.
  • This includes unnecessary shouting, rude behavior, using swear words, etc.
  • Demeaning the employee's self-esteem, joking in public about his qualifications, job, responsibilities, etc., come under this as well.
Physical
  • This includes violence and harassment in the workplace.
  • It is impossible to even believe that this kind of behavior takes place in a modern society.
  • This includes people who hit other employees, slap them, push them, etc., in other words, all sorts of violent activities that a civilized person would not even think of.
  • This kind of manhandling should be reported immediately.
  • There have even been cases wherein a grudging employee has severely beaten up the other.
Sex Orientation
  • When a discrimination is made on the basis of gender, it falls under this category.
  • Here, your seniors/colleagues might ill-treat you or behave rudely or abuse you because you are a male/female.
  • They may even judge you or pass unnecessary comments.
  • This kind of behavior is mostly seen with extreme chauvinists or feminists.
Age
  • This trend is seen in many companies.
  • Some staff are not given proper responsibility because they are young, even if they are well up to handling the same.
  • Also, older staff, those who have spent a lot of years with the company are ill-treated or not given the due respect because of their age.
  • The victims can file a complaint with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
Disability
  • Do you remember one of the lines of the famous fictional character, Nearly Headless Nick from the international legend 'Harry Potter'? If you remember right, he says, "Once again, you show all the sensitivity of a blunt ax.".
  • Well, you might confront people like this at your workplace, who make fun of people's disabilities.
  • As insensitive and inhuman as it sounds, it is unfortunately true.
  • People who have certain impairments, but still work in order to move on and rebuild a new life for themselves, are the victims of this abuse.
  • The harassers pass rude comments about their disabilities, ill-treat and insult them in front of everybody, or make them feel inferior so that they can get rid of their insecurities.
  • This is sheer cruelty and deserves a harsh punishment, because the harassers are literally playing with someone's life.
Religion and Racial
  • This is a rather common kind, yet a heinous form of abuse.
  • For preserving a harmonious work environment, there should be no discrimination at work on the basis of anything.
  • This form of abuse includes people passing rude comments on other people's race, religion, caste, language, heritage, political beliefs, religious preference, etc.
  • Remember that if a person lives in a democracy, he has the complete right to live the way he wants, his race or religion does not matter.
  • What's more, abuse on these grounds in not only absurd, but also depicts the dinosaur-type mentality of the harasser.
  • A person could be from any part of the world, following whatever customs, he may be supporting any political party or following any religious faith. You have no right to intervene and judge him, as long he delivers the proper output at work.
  • This kind of abuse has led many people to commit suicide, some suffer silently, and in worst cases, this kind of behavior leads to riots and bloodshed.
Personal Bullying
  • This is a form of verbal abuse, where the harasser bullies the other person in whatever way possible.
  • Some examples of workplace harassment and bullying include the harasser trying to exercise unnecessary authority on you, make you do things you do not want to, pass hurtful remarks, or delegating pointless tasks at work, etc.
  • He could also get personal and pass remarks on your private life, leak confidential information, trouble you unnecessarily, exclude you from participating in social activities at office, mix your personal and professional life, and create a difficult work schedule for you.
Stalking
  • It is one of the most dangerous forms of harassment.
  • If there is someone in the office who has a romantic interest in you and you refuse him (for whatever reasons), he could start stalking you.
  • He may stalk you online, through the social networking sites, or send you irritating messages and tweets.
  • He may stalk you over the phone, give you blank calls, missed calls, threaten you, etc.
  • He may follow you outside the office, to your house, to wherever you go within the office building, until you tire of him and agree to meet his demands.
  • However, don't ever succumb to this behavior. File a complaint immediately, or if the stalker is obsessive, your life could be at stake.
  • Neither will you be able to concentrate on your work, nor will you have a peaceful personal life.
Psychological
  • This kind of abuse is called so because it targets the person's psyche.
  • For that matter, with every kind of abuse, a person is psychologically affected.
  • But, when a person is repeatedly harassed by abusive language, harsh words, zero appreciation, shoving, grabbing, giving impossible targets, little duration, etc., it severely affects his state of mind.
  • So much that he may be terrified to come to the office, he may have a nervous breakdown, lose his self-confidence, start stuttering; he may even decide to end his life.
  • Before the situation gets out of hand, it is essential to file a complaint and get the harasser punished.
What to Do?
  • Normally, people silently put up with the abuse and bullying at work for fear of losing their jobs or being branded as a rumor-monger.
  • However, if you are a victim of the same, please do not stay quiet about it.
  • You, as a legal employee, have all the rights to stay happy at your workplace. If you are being denied the respect you deserve, you need to lash out at whoever is responsible.
  • Of course, it is easier said than done, but the fact is, if you fail to stand up for yourself, you will only be inviting more torture.
  • If you let people walk all over you, you are always going to be treated as a doormat. So, whoever is abusing you (your boss, colleague, or senior manager), put up a brave fight and let them know that you will not tolerate any nonsense at work.
  • While you may fear that you would lose your job, you also need to fight for your rights and dignity. Also, excess bullying might ultimately lead you to hate your job, and you may quit anyway.
  • If you are being sexually harassed, you must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), for this kind of abuse as well as abuse on the basis of color, race, religion, etc., is a form of discrimination under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
  • This title forbids your employer from punishing you for filing the complaint.
  • You do need a lawyer for this, but you have to file a complaint 6 months within the event occurrence.
  • You can also look through your company's employee handbook and have a look at the policies. If there are harassment policies, file a complaint immediately.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids anyone to make fun of people who have disabilities.
  • Apart from going into the legalities, you need to remain unafraid and stand up for yourself.
Harassing an employee is a legal crime. If you are an employee and are being harassed, please raise your voice against the injustice of the act. If you are an employer, please (and I genuinely mean, "Please"), see to it that your employees are not being bullied or abused. If you do not create a favorable work environment, how in the world can you expect quality output? If your employee is being harassed by his colleague/friend/other staff (even you for that matter, forgive my uncouth statement), do support the employee, take appropriate action, and see to it that the offenders are punished.
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