Every workplace and office has their own dynamic, culture, and system for how things work. However, one thing that should never occur or be allowed is harassment. Harassment is something that should never be ignored or dismissed. Whether you are the victim or notice a coworker being harassed, something needs to be done about it.
Below, we discuss workplace harassment in-depth, including how to prevent and handle it.
What Is Harassment?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace harassment is defined as:
Unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
Harassment in the workplace becomes illegal if it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA). To be illegal, the actions must be intimidating, hostile, and/or offensive to one or multiple individuals. However, oftentimes, harassment isn’t illegal if it involves petty annoyances and/or is an isolated incident.
Types of Workplace Harassment
- Verbal Harassment: Demeaning remarks, cursing, insults, negative comments, hurtful jokes, and yelling.
- Physical Harassment: Unwanted touching and gestures, or jokes about physical actions.
- Sexual Harassment: Sexual jokes and comments, sharing/showing explicit content, unwanted inappropriate touching, and requiring sexual favors for job perks.
- Digital Harassment: Posting and sharing hurtful, negative, and demeaning posts and comments that are visible by the target and possibly their coworkers.
- Psychological Harassment: Mentally breaks down the target through tactics such as exclusion, doing demeaning tasks, constant opposition, and assigning unreasonable tasks and deadlines.
- Quid Pro Quo Harassment: When a decision is made by a higher-up based on someone’s appearance, gender, race, disability, or refusal of sexual favors. These decisions could include hiring, firing, promotion, bonuses, and demotion.
- Hostile Work Environment Harassment: When a workplace is hostile, demeaning, or offensive as a result of unwelcome conduct by staff.
How To Prevent Workplace Harassment
Proper Employee Training
The first step to prevent harassment is to educate your employees. Require all new hires and current workers to take a harassment class, seminar, or workshop once a year.
Establish An Anti-Harassment Policy
All companies should have an anti-harassment policy that all employees must agree to follow upon being hired. This policy should address;
- The company’s stance on workplace harassment.
- Conduct that is prohibited.
- The process to file a complaint.
Create A Good Workplace Culture
As a company, a culture must be created that doesn’t condone or promote inappropriate conduct. A good culture should encourage employees to work, grow, and communicate with fellow coworkers.
Lead By Example
It all starts with the top. The higher-ups and leaders of your company must lead by example. If someone isn’t professionally conducting themselves, is negative, and is treating employees poorly, the tone they exude will trickle down to those under them.
Monitor Your Employees’ Devices
To keep an eye on your staff, it’s a good idea to use employee monitoring software to oversee their technology use. By doing this, it will ensure that no workers are being targeted online or discriminated against via company devices. However, before monitoring any employee, you must gain their consent to do so. Also, the software must only be used on company-owned devices.
How To Handle Harassment At Work
Keep A Record Of All Evidence Of Harassment
If you are being targeted, record all evidence of offensive and harassing conduct and situations. If you are put in a harassing situation (not digital), write down what happened and when, and who was involved.
Talk To Your Coworkers
Your coworkers could be of help if they are also being harassed or have witnessed it happening. Talk with them and see if they will help in filing a complaint with the appropriate person. It also could help to discuss what is occurring with a coworker you trust.
Ask Your Loved Ones For Support
Sometimes, it is not wise to confide with an employee regarding what’s going on. Instead, ask friends and family for their support. Tell them what is going on and ask for their opinion. It can help to get an outsider’s perspective.
Don’t Let Your Work Performance Be Impacted
If harassment is occurring, try to not have it impact your work. Keep doing good work and stay on top of your tasks. So, in the event you are being harassed regarding work performance, you have evidence you have been performing optimally.
Finally, report it to the appropriate person in your company whether it be human resources or a higher-up. If you are unsure of who it is, check your employment contract or company policy manual. When reporting the harassment, make sure to have any evidence collected.
Workplace harassment is no joke. If you or a coworker is being harassed, collect evidence of it and report it. A work environment that is hostile and offensive should never be tolerated and doesn’t help a business grow and prosper.