Workplace Harassment: Meaning, Definition, Types and Prevention
Career

Workplace Harassment: Meaning, Definition, Types and Prevention

Unfortunately, workplace harassment is much more common than we want to admit.

Women are very often too afraid to speak up and face the problem because they dread the further consequences of this decision. 

If we want to raise awareness of workplace harassment, we need to discuss it openly, introduce women to its types, be supportive and offer intelligent and efficient solutions. 

Do not take workplace harassment for granted!

Fight it with undivided commitment if you ever witness or experience it!

Fight it for your own sake and the sake of all future victims. 

We are here to help you by providing you with all you need to know about workplace harassment.

 

What is workplace harassment precisely?

Generally, workplace harassment is defined as any unwelcome and offensive verbal or physical behaviour based on a person’s age, gender, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, colour, race, pregnancy, genetic information, appearance or weight.

It can also involve making business decisions or giving employees a bad treatment at work due to the rejection of unwelcome conduct. 

As you probably know, a harasser can be anybody –your employer, supervisor, coworker, contractor, even a customer or a client.

In other words, it can be any person you are in contact with while doing your job.

When harassment appears on a daily basis, becomes ordinary in your work environment and makes it intimidating and hostile, it becomes illegal. 

Taking legal action against the harasser is the only reasonable decision you can make. 

Only this way workplace harassment will not remain an issue.

 

Workplace harassment has many forms

Yes, indeed. Sadly, there is a wide range of actions one can use to make you feel angry, humiliated, intimidated, or at least uncomfortable at work.

Basically, there are two major groups of harassing activities. 

The first one involves “quid pro quo” or “this for that” harassment.

It refers to those situations when we can see clearly that some employment decisions are undoubtedly based on our rejection of sexual advances.

Sometimes, religious circumstances can also cause these types of decisions.

On the other hand, there is a vast number of unwelcome actions that can ruin the work environment by making it stressful, offensive, hostile, and intimidating for some employees.  

To help you understand, we offer some further explanation on these points. Here are the most common types of harassment you can experience at work.

 

Psychological harassment

 

Workplace Harassment: Meaning, Definition, Types and Prevention

Psychological harassment can seriously affect your efficiency at work and your well-being in general.

If someone spreads rumours about you, challenges everything you say, keeps discrediting you and underestimates you at work, you need to do something about it as soon as possible. 

 

Quid pro quo harassment

Most often, this is a type of sexual harassment since it involves offering something valuable, like a raise, promotion, a job, for example, for a sexual favour.

Hence, the harasser is always a person who is in a superior position in the company or on the business ladder. 

Those who are very persistent to turn their intentions into reality will opt for blackmailing as well to make you play by their rules. 

Even if you get their plans and ideas in simple hints and not explicitly, do something about it.

Not saying their own wishes clearly and out loud does not make the situation less serious.  

 

Discriminatory harassment

Discriminatory harassment is based on the intention to bully someone just because he/she belongs to one of the protected classes.

It can be divided into several different categories.

 

Discriminatory harassment

As the name suggests, victims of racial harassment are exposed to intolerance, jokes, slurs, insults, or degrading comments because of their race, colour, or country of origin.

Sometimes, you can experience it even after moving to another city for work because people are different and you never know what might trigger this kind of behaviour.

Whatever happens, do not let it go that easily.

Report it and make the bullies understand and feel the consequences of what they have done.

Suffering is never a good solution.

 

Gender harassment

Gender harassment

Women are very often victims of this type of harassment because negative gender stereotypes are still very strong.

If you are building wealth as a single mom, you have probably experienced these stereotypes many times.

There is a general belief that men are more skilled, knowledgeable, and appropriate for certain jobs.

Moreover, they sometimes get much better salaries.

Hence, women commonly suffer from gender discrimination.

It is definitely worth trying to change the current situation and make the chances equal for both sexes.

 

Religious harassment

Religion sometimes can cause a whole set of various events that may be disturbing for an individual.

If you notice that your employer or your company as a whole is intolerant of your religious holidays, traditions, or customs, that your coworkers make inappropriate jokes or comments, or that there is any kind of pressure to change your religion, yes, you are the victim of religious harassment by all means and you need to do something about that.

 

Harassment due to a disability

What you can expect here is not to be given the working conditions you deserve, to be subject to teasing and bad jokes, or to receive patronizing comments.

Whatever may be the case, do not give up on fighting for your rights and the treatment you deserve.

Harassment cannot be eliminated if you do not report it.

 

Harassment due to sexual orientation

This type of workplace harassment is becoming more and more evident.

Very often, people whose sexual orientation is different from those around them get insults, offensive behaviour, bad treatment, and even physical violence from their employers or coworkers.

 

Age-based harassment

Age-based workplace harassment has become a powerful weapon to make people retire much earlier.

Luckily, if you are aged 40 or even older, you are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and there is no reason to worry.

Make those who have been disturbing you aware that they will have to suffer the consequences of their bad behaviour and do not lose your confidence. 

 

Physical harassment

Physical harassment is actually a type of physical violence that can become very serious.

It involves various activities, from simple physical gestures to even destroying property, shaking fists with anger and intimidating the victim.

If you are a healthcare worker, a teacher, retailer, or a social services employee, for example, chances are you will be exposed to this type of violence more often than people of other professions.

 

Cyberbullying

Workplace Harassment: Meaning, Definition, Types and Prevention

With the development of technology and ever-increasing usage of the internet in doing business, it was a matter of time when the harassers will come to the new idea on how to reach their victims.

Cyberbullying causes serious problems nowadays because it can be conducted in many different ways – sending humiliating things by email, sending disturbing instant messages to the victim, publishing some offensive information or pictures online. 

 

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is one of those harassment types that happen very often.

If you get inappropriate messages or sexual photos, or you have to bear sexual comments, jokes or gestures, it’s high time you objected openly to such behaviour. 

 

How to prevent workplace harassment

How to prevent workplace harassment

If you are an employer yourself, there are a few things you can do to protect your employees and discourage harassers to continue with their offensive practices. 

Firstly, you need to define clearly and apply the Codes of Conduct in your company.

Make sure everyone obeys the rules without exception.

Secondly, train your staff and inform them about workplace harassment, how to recognize and report it. 

Finally, introduce an internal complaint system that guarantees anonymity to the victims and protects them from retaliation. 

Only this way can you expect to set up a motivating, encouraging, comfortable work environment that will help the progress of your business and help you, as a businesswoman, rise up.

 

Know what to do when you witness or experience workplace harassment

The Department of Labor (DOL) does its best to make people understand how important it is to report workplace harassment once you recognize or experience it. 

Even when we are talking about the cases which are not so severe, this type of conduct should be eliminated or at least brought to a minimum, to start with.

If you ever witness or become a victim of workplace harassment, you should report it to your supervisor first or to your Agency EOO Manager. 

For regional employees, the person in charge is Regional Administrator, OASAM. 

Whomever you inform on the harassment, you will not make a mistake. 

The only mistake you can make is keeping quiet about it.