Harassment in the workplace is not straightforward. Indeed, it doesn’t only take the forms that we are most familiar with, which is verbal and physical. Workplace harassment can be subtle, long-term, or come in waves. It can also happen in front of others, or when no one is around.
Nowadays, with the advent of social media, harassment can take on an even subtler form which is harder to detect. In order to help you spot harassment, we identified the seven most common forms of harassment in the workplace:
1. Physical Harassment
Not surprisingly, the most common forms of harassment in the workplace are physical. Physical harassment can take the form of someone physically hurting you or your property. This could entail, hitting, pushing or slapping. It could also entail threats of violence, without the actual act of violence taking place.
Furthermore, physical harassment can be committed and the perpetrator can brush it off as an accident. For instance, this can include bumping into someone, or damage to property. However, listen to your gut. If you feel that the act of violence was intentional given that individual’s history with you and their predilection to violence in the past, don’t hesitate to act on it. Consider speaking to your supervisor, which will do a workplace investigation on the harassment and escalate the matter to Human Resources.
2. Personal Harassment or Bullying
Personal harassment is also known as bullying and it involves unwanted, hurtful comments about oneself. Bullying tends to be persistent in nature and it preys on the individual’s insecurities.
For instance, if you fail to meet a deadline only once, a bully will pounce on this and use it as ammunition to tease you repeatedly. If you forget how to do something on a photocopier, a bully can use this as material for future teasing and mocking. Essentially, bullies amplify minor things and frame them as major shortcomings of your personality.
3. Discriminatory Harassment
Discriminatory harassment is one of the most common forms of harassment in the workplace. This harassment is based on one’s age, gender, skin color, socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Although we have numerous safeguards and laws against this type of behaviour, you would be shocked to see how much of it still happens.
This behaviour can also be fairly subtle and harder to pinpoint. For instance, discriminatory harassment can take the form of not promoting someone due to their skin color and gender, despite the fact that they earned the new role.
4. Psychological Harassment
Psychological harassment is extremely damaging, potentially more so than physical harassment as it often takes the form of a targeted attack of someone’s personality, instead of their performance in the workplace. For instance, if someone mocks one’s weight, their looks, the way the speak, smell or behave, then this count as psychological harassment.
Given what we know about psychological harassment from research, this is incredibly damaging to the victim. Indeed, over time, the victim ends up internalizing much of the negative comments made against them which can lead to low self-esteem, a lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and even thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
One downside of the rapid growth of social media, is the increase in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is when an online platform is used to perpetuate hurtful comments either about someone, or they are sent directly to them.
For instance, this could involve sending hurtful messages directly to that individual through Facebook, or it can be a chat with someone else about that person. The issue with cyberbullying is that any such comments that are shared via the internet spread very rapidly and are difficult to stop.
6. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is extremely common in the workplace, particularly within certain types of industries such as the service and media industry. Sexual harassment is defined as when one makes unwanted sexual or romantic advances towards someone, despite a clearly defined lack of interest.
Another type of all too common sexual harassment is when one’s superior abuses their power with a subordinate. Therefore, any rebukes of such advances could potentially lead to a lack of promotion, a negative change in work responsibilities, or even the risk of getting fired.
7. Third Party Harassment
Third party harassment refers to sexual, physical or verbal harassment that is perpetuated by those who do not work for the particular workplace, but have access to it. This could be anyone from the individuals who work in delivery services or the food industry. Despite the fact that these individuals do not work there, this harassment must be treated the same.
Workplace harassment is not something to be taken lightly. If you are experiencing any form of harassment in the workplace, speak to your manager and Human Resource representative immediately. Work has to be a place where you feel safe and secure and if that ever changes, you must act right away.