Do you know that one in three women have experienced some form of workplace harassment?
According to the National Women’s Law Center, 66% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. While this number is alarming, what’s even more disturbing is that a mere 7% of these women file formal complaints.
Harassment at workplace is common but unfortunately its victims often remain silent. In most of the cases, harassment at workplace is unnoticed and unreported.
Harassment at workplace creates a negative impact on employees and it has adverse effects on productivity and morale of employees.
It’s right of an employee to work in a safe working environment that is free of any kind of harassment. It is equally important for business as harassment at workplace damages organizational reputation.
Therefore, it is essential to maintain zero tolerance towards harassment.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss what harassment at workplace is, how to identify it and how to deal with harassment at workplace. what steps you can take to protect yourself. We’ll also provide tips for keeping yourself safe in the workplace.
What is Harassment at Workplace?
Workplace harassment occurs when an individual is subjected to unwelcome conduct that is related to their job or creates a hostile work environment. This type of harassment can come from supervisors, co-workers, or even customers or clients.
Harassment can be verbal, physical, or visual in nature, and it can be directed towards someone because of their race, gender, religion, national origin, or other protected characteristic. It can include anything from offensive jokes and comments to physical assaults.
This is the legal definition of harassment under the UK’s Equality Act 2010. In order to constitute as harassment, the conduct must have either:
- The purpose of violating someone’s dignity, or
- The effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
What is difference between Harassment and Bullying?
Workplace harassment and bullying in workplace are two separate terms but used interchangeably. There is thin line of difference between these two terms. Bullying is more about psychological and it happened covertly whereas harassment involves physical contact such as invading physical space and it is happened overtly.
Types of Harassment at Workplace
There are few types of workplace harassment. Let’s discuss one by one
Quid pro quo harassment
Quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone in a position of power (such as a supervisor) asks for sexual favors in exchange for something, such as a promotion or raise. This type of harassment is usually directed towards someone of a lower position in workplace.
A hostile work environment
It occurs when the behavior is so severe that it creates a work environment that is offensive or intimidating. This type of harassment can be directed towards anyone, regardless of their position in the company.
Victims of verbal harassment often report being subjected to offensive jokes, name-calling, unwanted taunting and comments about their appearance. This harassment is not physical, so it is hard to recognize it. That’s why people should be vigilant to notice this kind of harassment.
This type of harassment can be directed towards anyone, and it can make the workplace very uncomfortable.
Physical harassment is any type of unwelcome physical contact such as touching body and clothing. Unwanted hugging or touching to sexual assault are also the part of physical harassment.
Mostly marginalized groups such as women, person with disabilities and employees from minorities face such kind of harassment at the workplace.
Cyberbullying (digital harassment)
In this digital world everyone is using social media and can easily fall victim to harassment on social media platforms.
Cyberbullying is a type of harassment that occurs online or through electronic communications. It can include anything from sending offensive emails or text messages to posting embarrassing photos or videos.
Good thing about this type of harassment is that it can be documented can take screen shorts or saved the emails. So, victim of harassment can easily report to the authority or employer.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is any unwanted sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature. This can include anything from unwanted touching or asking for sexual favors, vulgar gestures to lewd comments or jokes.
Sexual harassment is a heinous crime and not specific to women only. Any gender can be victim of sexual harassment.
Most of the time preparator get away with this kind of harassment
3rd Party Harassment
3rd party harassment occurs when someone is harassed by a non-employee, such as a client or customer. This type of harassment can be just as severe as harassment from a supervisor or co-worker, and it can make the workplace very uncomfortable.
Power harassment is a type of harassment that occurs when someone in a position of power (such as a supervisor) uses their position to harass someone. This can include anything from making unwelcome sexual advances to demanding favors in exchange for a promotion.
When employees are overtly or covertly asked to abandon or change their religious faith and beliefs as a condition of employment. Another dimension of this kind of harassment is unwelcoming and derogatory comments or behavior towards others religion.
It is not about discussing religion and having disagreement over religion but if there are threatening remarks and behaviour is continued then it is harassment.
How to identify if you are being harassed at work
Harassment can be difficult to identify, as it often happens in subtle ways. If you’re not sure if you’re being harassed, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel uncomfortable or offended during work in office?
- Does the conduct make it difficult for you to do your job?
- Has the conduct been going on for a while?
- Is the conduct directed towards you or someone else in the workplace?
- Does the conduct make the workplace feel hostile or offensive?
- Does a single or group of employees yelled at you in front of others without any reason?
- Does anyone spread rumors about your personal life?
- Are you being excluded from the company meeting on the basis of your skin color or religion?
If you answer to these questions is yes, then you may be experiencing workplace harassment.
08 Steps to deal with harassment at Workplace
The biggest challenge to dealing with harassment at workplace is that victims of harassment often hesitate to report it and they are afraid of speaking up.
It’s partly because of fear of negative consequences of filing a complaint and also, they are unaware how to deal with harassment at workplace.
Everyone in workplace must know ways and methods given below which will help to take action against harassment.
1. Recognize type of harassment
As it is mentioned above that there are different types of harassment. And each type needs different response and action.
The first step is to understand what type of harassment you are experiencing. Whether it’s physical or sexual harassment or it is verbal or it is cyber harassment. Recognizing type of harassment helps you to determine the best way to deal with harassment.
2. Have a Conversation with Harasser
The next step is to pick up courage and have a candid one-on-one conversation with harasser.
If you avoid or ignore harasser, it will benefit him/her. And many a times, harassers don’t consider their act as harassment.
Always have a conversation with harasser to hold him accountable of his/her actions and give him/her strong message that any such actions will not be tolerated in the future and you will take every possible action.
You should be confident and strong enough to assert your feelings. With strong body language, bold voice, and direct eye contact, you need to clearly communicate with him/her and explain what are his/her actions are harassment towards you.
Also show him/her your intent to file a complaint and take legal course if these actions are repeated in the future.
3. Document events and details
You can also take steps to protect yourself from future harassment. This includes keeping a record the name of the person harassing you, his/her position in the organization, and type of harassment upon you.
Also note down time, dates locations and witness of the incident. Collect as much information as you can this will help you in your case.
4. Get support of witnesses
Always reach out to your colleagues who may witness the actions of harasser. You may find them supportive and willing to stand by you in case their evidence is required at the time of inquiry or legal proceedings.
It’s also important to talk to witness because they might be harassed by same person and never able to speak up against that. In this case they feel empowered and collective action or complaint can be filed against harasser.
5. Have a meeting with your supervisor or HR
If harasser is not your supervisor, then you need to bring all the incident into his/her notice. But if harasser is your supervisor, then you can have a meeting with HR or any other relevant official who is supposed to hear such issue.
Before meeting with your supervisor or HR, you need to prepare your case and arguments. You should be articulate enough to answer all counter arguments. You should be fully aware of organizational harassment policy and guidelines and process of making complaint. And lastly you should document all the events and witnesses so that you can assertively present your case.
6. Don’t hesitate to file a complaint
If you don’t speak up for yourself then who will? You have every right to file a complaint against harassment and there is always institutional support available to you.
If the harassment is coming from a supervisor or someone in a position of power, you may need to contact HR or file a complaint with the other institutions out of your workplace which provide with legal protection and other support.
If the harassment is coming from a non-employee, such as a client or customer, then bring this to attention of your supervisor or HR. Many organizations have proper protection mechanism for employees and strict anti-harassment policies. Every employee must know organizational policies and process of filing a complaint.
7. Follow up on your complaint
You should always keep following up on your complaint because there are chances that your complaint would be stuck somewhere and nothing quick action would be taken. In that case never leave your case and pursue it vigorously.
If you see that nothing is being done, you have every right to explore other options of taking forward your complaint. Never give up hope and pursue your complaint until justice is done and proper action is taken against harasser.
It’s right of every employee to work in a safe environment free of harassment. Many harassment cases are gone unnoticed as victims remain silent. But now organisations have policies and system in place to protect their employees from workplace harassment. Employees need to know how to deal with harassment at workplace by identifying what type of harassment they are experiencing and what are steps to follow to report it and hold their harasser accountable.