Workplace harassment: how to recognize it and report it. Harassment in the workplace comes in many forms: sexual and physical harassment, intimidation, job shame, verbal threats, derogatory comments, and assaults, among others. Whether you are a victim of bullying in the workplace or have observed it, it is important to take action.
You may have reported this incident to your company’s human resources contact, but what do you do if you are not comfortable escalating this internally for fear of retaliation or if your complaint has fallen on deaf ears? Then what you should do is file a complaint with a government entity, since they are the ones who are in charge of protecting the entire community of employees who suffer from harassment.
When workplace harassment or mobbing occurs in a company, directly or indirectly, all workers who are part of your organization are involved. Not only is it a matter that involves the victim and the harasser or harassers, but it is essential that colleagues who work with both parties know how to recognize when harassment occurs at work.
However, it should be noted that the features set out below are guiding criteria, because workplace harassment can take various subtle forms that vary depending on the case we are facing. It is sometimes difficult to detect it, but if we look closely, we can detect it and slow it down.
Harassment in the workplace is common but is not discussed openly in most work settings. Most people do not know what harassment is at work; sometimes they even confuse it with trust between co-workers. In this sense, it is extremely important to educate people so that they learn to recognize and report workplace harassment, regardless of whether they suffer it or if they know a colleague suffers it.
What is workplace harassment?
The harassment occurs when an employee or group of employees feels threatened or belittled by their colleagues. The sole purpose of a workplace stalker is to make its victims feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
Harassment in the workplace is known by various names such as “workplace bullying”, “harassment”, “workplace assault”, and so on.
Harassment incorporates various types of segregation and displays of infringement that are not limited to a group. Statistically, most cases of harassment are directed at people from vulnerable groups, such as women, people of color, racial minorities within a community, sexual minorities, immigrants, or people with some type of disability. Harassment in the workplace requires a plural arrangement, as it cannot be summed up in a solid and conscientious definition.
Types of workplace harassment
To learn to recognize and report workplace harassment, first you need to know the types of bullying that exist. Harassment includes offensive jokes, intimidation, name-calling, epithets, physical assault, intimidation, taunting, name-calling, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with job performance.
Harassment in the workplace can be of any kind, be it verbal or physical, sexual favors, psychological, emotional, etc. There are five main types of harassment in the workplace, these are:
1. Verbal bullying
People who suffer this kind of bullying must not only deal with the cruel words of their attacker, but also with the words of self-punishment that are generated in their own mind. Verbal harassment consists of degrading insults, offensive gestures, and unwarranted criticism. Since this is a form of non-physical violence, it includes name-calling such as jokes to embarrass, hurtful comments, and unwanted teasing, so it is often difficult to recognize it.
2. Psychological harassment
Psychological bullying is somewhat similar to verbal bullying, but it is more covert and comprises tactics such as withholding information. Victims who face this type of bullying are more likely to suffer mental breakdowns, low self-esteem and tend to weaken themselves.
The bully typically takes credit for the success of his victims, makes requests that are impossible to fulfill, imposes completely absurd deadlines, forces people to change their job roles, and more. This is a form of deliberate mobbing.
Digital bullying or cyberbullying is the newest form of bullying. Although it happens online, it is as derogatory as physical harassment. Digital bullying includes posting demeaning threats or comments on social media, creating a fake profile to intimidate someone online, creating a web page about the victim to mock and belittle them, and making false accusations online.
Therefore, in the name of free speech, anyone can digitally harass anyone. People can create fake characters to demean or intimidate their colleagues.
But there is an advantage that people who experience cyberbullying can turn to their advantage: victims can document it. Someone facing such harassment and discrimination can document these incidents through screenshots, saved emails, etc. By doing so, victims of workplace bullying can easily report these offensive behaviors.
4. Sexual harassment
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a heinous crime and more common than you might think. It is a crime that is not exclusive to women. A person of any gender can be the victim or perpetrator of sexual harassment.
According to the statistics generated by a survey carried out by ZipRecruiter survey, 40% of women and 14% of men who work in companies suffer, or have suffered some kind of sexual harassment.
Whether it is caresses without consent, sending obscene messages, sharing pornographic photos or videos, asking a favor of a sexual nature, or something similar, you must be aware that it is sexual abuse. Many victims don’t want to just talk about this because they think it will get better, but no, it only gets worse.
5. Physical harassment
Physical harassment in the workplace has many degrees. Such abuses include inappropriate contact with clothing, skin, physical assault, threats, or damage to personal property.
People who belong to gender minorities and LGBTQIA + communities are more likely to face this type of harassment at work. Offenders may play down some abuses in the form of jokes, without causing physical harm; in such cases, it is difficult to identify physical abuse.
4 steps to detect workplace harassment
There are certain attitudes that people who suffer from workplace harassment present. By learning a little more about this topic, people can more easily recognize and report workplace harassment. Some of the attitudes that people who are harassed can exhibit are:
1. Character of the victim
When we notice that a person is lowering their performance and is in a state of constant anger, sadness, or nervousness different from what a person can usually suffer, it can be an alarming symptom. The first aspect that is affected in harassment cases is the victim’s state of mind and, if you feel identified personally or because you know that someone could be in that state, it is advisable to ask what it is due to.
If the reasons are related to work and not personal reasons, it means that there is some work incident that has to be observed.
2. Avoiding a specific person at work
You will be able to detect workplace harassment when someone notices that a person refuses or avoids with all means to coincide with a colleague or superior with whom they usually work, not only for these two specific workers but also for the others.
3. Actions to ridicule or belittle a person at work
Normally, a person who is being harassed at work isolates when they suddenly receive an excess of work or are performing functions that are not their job. Another more direct way is the continuous comments and criticisms of your professional or personal level in front of other colleagues. If these actions occur in your company, it is a clear signal to analyze if there really is a situation of workplace harassment.
4. Avoids talking about it with other people
It is normal that the worker who is in a possible case of harassment does not want to share anything or deny the points that we have indicated previously with colleagues or even friends and family as close people. People who suffer this type of harassment close down and do not report or want to explain it because of the main fear of losing their job or that the problems will grow.
How to report workplace harassment?
If you consider that you or someone you know may be suffering workplace harassment according to the guidelines, there are two instances to which you can go to report both the harasser and the company:
- The first is to the Labor Inspectorate, who, by personal complaint or anonymous, it will demand administrative responsibility from the employer for allowing or promoting conduct contrary to the integrity and dignity of the worker.
- The second is before the Social Jurisdiction, being a judicial procedure for the termination of the employment contract with recognition of the corresponding compensation.
The key to the success of any organization is its resources; yes, we are talking about the employees. A disruptive and uncomfortable work environment can negatively affect productivity, employee relations, and your organization’s reputation in the business world.
Therefore, maintaining decorum and practicing zero tolerance for harassment is necessary for the business growth of any business, as is teaching all employees to recognize and report workplace harassment immediately.