There is nothing more toxic than working in an environment where bullies and harassers are overpowering and threaten us daily. Workplace harassment is not only a belittling situation where the employees have to face situations that harm their psychological, physical, social, and sexual wellbeing. Mostly this takes the form of verbal or psychological harassment, but sometimes takes extreme forms of physical and sexual harassment compromising their productivity, comfort, and safety.
Employees feel that they will be able to recognize workplace harassment and report it, harassment leaves them in a confused and self-doubting state. According to Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting, a worker does not report these cases because of fear and most of them are unsure of what behavior constitutes harassment.
Some behaviors, though uncomfortable but seemingly harmless are not reported because of the fear of being called a snitch or a petty. But what they don’t realize is that the sooner they act the easier it will be to put an end to it.
People should educate themselves on this subject so they are more aware of the abusive behavior directed towards them and have the confidence to report it. What most of them don’t realize is that any type of workplace harassment is illegal and will put the organization in jeopardy.
Types of Workplace Harassment
- Psychological Harassment- It is covert and consists of tactics like withholding information from employees. It also includes taking credit for someone’s work, posing impossible demands and unreasonable deadlines on particular employees, asking workers to perform demeaning tasks that are outside the scope of work, and persistently opposing whatever the employee says. This doesn’t seem like harassment but it slowly chips away at the person’s self-esteem and undermines them.
- Verbal Harassment– It is an ongoing attack on the employee’s health and career. Verbal abuse in the workplace includes offensive gestures, demeaning remarks, and unreasonable criticism. This is generally considered as the grey area because it doesn’t include physical harassment. It has a negative psychological impact on the victim and results in outcomes such as depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
- Digital Harassment– It is the newest form of harassment and it is on the online platform but is as dilapidating as physical bullying. This consists of posting demeaning comments on social media, creating webpages to scrutinize the victim by mocking and belittling them, making fake personas to bully their co-workers. Social media has given birth to this new form under the cover of freedom of speech and expression. This allows the harasser to be even crueler and meaner because of the presence of the screen.
- Physical Harassment– It can vary in intensity because it involves simple unwanted gestures like touching the co-worker’s hair, clothes, face, or skin or more severe actions like physical assault, threatening to violence, and damage to physical property. It can be considered as a joke if the other person is not physically hurt such as kicking or going through the belongings of your co-worker without actually hurting them. Even if there is no severe physical harm, it can still be considered physical harassment.
- Sexual harassment– It is a serious offense and perhaps a more common kind of employee harassment than you might realize. The preparator and victims of such an act could be of any gender be it males, females, or transgender. It includes sexual jokes, comments, gestures, sharing pornography, inappropriate touching, and sexual messages. Even though it is a serious offense it is not so obvious, for instance using inoffensive gestures accompanied by a sexual tone of voice, is generally masked by mild banter. However, if this makes you feel uncomfortable you should report it to higher authorities immediately.
Impacts of Workplace Harassment
The effects of workplace harassment can include physical and psychological health problems which do not leave you when you leave the workplace. They include anxiety, high blood pressure, panic attacks, chronic stress, ulcers and insomnia.
Workplace harassment also affects a person emotionally and cognitively. People who experience workplace harassment experience an incapacity to concentrate on work and other tasks, they feel a loss of self-esteem, have diminished decision making ability and experience lower productivity.
They don’t only lose the motivation to work but also the time to earn as they are preoccupied with defending themselves, avoiding the abuser, trying to attain social support and planning how to cope with their circumstances. The targets of workplace harassment may also feel a sense of absolute isolation, powerlessness, disorientation and helplessness.
How to Report Workplace Harassment?
The human resource department generally deals with such sort of cases, the employees should not hesitate to approach them on such occurrences. The lack of physical evidence should not deter you because generally in such scenarios there is not a lot of physical evidence. If you take charge and report then other employees who might be facing such circumstances by the same preparator and this helps the HR to gather evidence.
These are some of how you can deal with workplace harassment:
- Try to approach the harasser calmly and ask them to stop directing such behavior towards you. However, if this is the case of physical or sexual harassment then do not approach the preparator.
- Consider escalating it to your HR or manager and report such behavior if the preparator doesn’t pay heed to your attempts to resolve the situation. Approach the HR directly if the manager is the harasser and provide some sort of evidence such as text messages or eye witness accounts to make your case strong.
- If the HR and the manager are not able to provide a satisfactory solution to your problems then try approaching NGOs or higher authorities who will help you fight for your rights as a worker and an employee.
How To Deal With Workplace Harassment
Here are a few pointer on how to identify and deal with workplace harassment:
- Speaking up is perhaps the most essential step you could take if you are being harassed. You need to be firm in order to discourage such behavior.
- Confronting the harasser and explaining them how you felt is often the second step towards curbing workplace harassment.
- Document these incidents, jot down the list of witnesses and gather evidence for the same. If it happens repeatedly, if documented, these incidents are easy to report and authenticate and let the harasser know why the complaint was made.
- The ultimate step would be to take the matter to the HR, or the management. If the issue persists reporting it to the concerned authority would be the penultimate step irrespective of its effect on your career because at the end your well-being is more important.
- Often when the management fails to address these incidents and issues, one could obviously take other routes; report to the top management directly, or go to the media and either these extreme methods often result to a massive shift of the image of the company in the corporate world and can cause disruption even in the top managerial level.
Some behaviors you should not indulge in while dealing with workplace harassment:
- Try not to retaliate physically as it might just escalate the situation for you.
- Do not discuss it with your colleagues as they do not have the power to do anything about it and this just waters down your version if they are asked for an eye witness account.
Workplace harassment laws
The business owner and organization heads must have policies and rules regarding such situations but there are federal and state laws that protect employee’s rights. Along with the preexisting measures taken by the government, a relatively new act was passed by the Singapore Parliament. The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) was passed on 13 March 2014. It strengthens existing penalties for harassment. New offences have also been introduced such as stalking. This act also provides us with self-help measures, civil remedies, and criminal sanctions relevant to sexual harassment.
A person can seek legal redress and compensation in monetary terms against the abuser under section 11 of the POHA for the following offences:
- Intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress under section 3 of the POHA;
- Harassment, alarm or distress under section 4 of the POHA;
- Fear or provocation of violence under section 5 of the POHA; and
- Unlawful stalking under section 7 of the POHA.
Even though there are laws to protect workers and work for their welfare. It is the responsibility of the business and organization to apply these and be aware of the worker’s plight so that they can help them. Workers are the most important resource not only of an organization but the society and we need to look out for them.