The workplace should be a safe and supportive environment where employees can thrive and grow. However, the reality is that workplace harassment remains a pervasive issue in many organizations. Although no one should ever have to endure unfair treatment, understanding what constitutes workplace harassment and knowing how to address it is crucial for both employees and employers.
What Is Workplace Harassment?
Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that involves any unwelcome behavior, actions, or comments directed at an individual or a group of employees based on their protected characteristics or membership in a specific group. These behaviors create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment, which can significantly affect the victim’s well-being and job performance.
Harassment in the workplace can present itself in many forms. Furthermore, it doesn’t just include in-person interactions – it can also take place within work email, messaging platforms, and anywhere else where colleagues communicate.
Types of Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment can take many forms, each targeting different aspects of an individual’s identity. Here are some of the most common types:
1. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome advances, comments, or requests for sexual favors that create an uncomfortable or hostile work environment. It can be both verbal and physical in nature and affects people of all genders.
2. Racial Harassment
Racial harassment involves discriminatory behavior or comments based on an individual’s race, ethnicity, or nationality. This can manifest as racial slurs, derogatory remarks, or exclusion based on racial background.
3. Gender-Based Harassment
Gender-based harassment targets individuals because of their gender identity or expression. It may involve sexist comments, gender stereotyping, or bullying related to one’s gender.
4. Age Discrimination
Age discrimination occurs when employees are treated unfairly due to their age, often in the form of jokes, derogatory comments, or being passed over for promotions because of their age.
5. Disability Harassment
Disability harassment targets individuals with disabilities, subjecting them to offensive comments, exclusion, or unequal treatment based on their physical or mental impairments.
6. Religious Harassment
Religious harassment in the workplace involves discrimination against an individual’s religious beliefs or practices. This can include mocking religious customs, offensive comments, or excluding employees based on their faith.
How to Handle Workplace Harassment
Addressing workplace harassment requires a systematic and thoughtful approach. If you believe you are experiencing harassment or if you witness it happening to a colleague, follow these steps:
1. Document Incidents
Keep a detailed record of all incidents, including dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and what was said or done. This documentation will be crucial if you decide to report the harassment.
2. Review Company Policies
Familiarize yourself with your organization’s policies on harassment in the workplace. Understand the reporting procedures and who to contact, whether it’s your supervisor, HR department, or a designated ombudsman.
3. Speak Up
If you feel safe doing so, consider addressing the issue directly with the person responsible for the harassment. Clearly and firmly communicate that their behavior is unwelcome and request that it stop.
4. Formally Report the Harassment
If the workplace harassment continues or speaking directly to the harasser isn’t an option, follow your company’s reporting procedures. Provide your documentation and any evidence to support your claims.
5. Seek Support
Talk to a trusted colleague, friend, or family member about the situation for emotional support. Consider consulting with a therapist or counselor to help you cope with the stress and emotional toll of harassment.
6. Follow Up
After reporting harassment in the workplace, stay engaged in the process. Cooperate with any investigations and be prepared to provide additional information or testimony as needed.
7. Know Your Rights
Familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal anti-discrimination laws that protect you from workplace harassment. Understanding your rights can empower you during the resolution process.
8. Consider Legal Action
If the harassment persists despite following company protocols, you may need to consult an attorney and explore legal options available to you.
Remember that every workplace harassment case is unique, and the steps you take may vary depending on your specific circumstances. The key is to take action promptly and seek support when needed to ensure your workplace remains a safe and inclusive environment.
Create an Inviting Workplace
Workplace harassment is a serious issue that can have lasting effects on individuals and organizations. By understanding what constitutes harassment, recognizing the different types, and knowing how to handle it, we can collectively work towards creating workplaces that are free from discrimination and intimidation, where all employees can thrive and excel.
However, preventing harassment isn’t the only thing needed to create a workplace where people feel safe and included. You also want to follow expected office etiquette tips, treat everyone with kindness and respect, and carry your weight by maximizing your productivity.
Image credit: Pexels
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