Workplace harassment is an obstacle to work performance and productivity, creates an uncomfortable work environment, and is also against the law. That’s why it’s so important to be able to recognize the signs of harassment, communicate your harassment policy and procedures to employees, and enforce your policy. It protects the safety and well-being of your workers, plus helps you avoid legal issues.
Types of workplace harassment
Harassment ranges from basic to much more serious, and includes anything that makes a person uncomfortable, including jokes, slurs, name-calling, put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, intimidation, ridicule, threats or even physical assaults. Types of workplace harassment include the following:
This consists of demeaning comments, gestures and criticism, jokes, slurs, yelling and cursing—anything that makes a person feel threatened and uncomfortable.
Similar to verbal harassment, psychological harassment can be hard to define because it’s more abstract and often subjective. This form of harassment consists of tactics that can undermine an individual and chip away at their self-esteem. It can include taking credit for someone else’s work, asking for impossible tasks or deadlines, or consistently asking a worker to perform tasks outside their job scope.
Also known as “cyber-bullying,” digital harassment consists of posting about someone to belittle, make false accusations, mock them, etc.
From unwanted touching of clothing, hair or body, to threats of violence, damage to property or physical assault, physical harassment has a range of degrees. It can include shoving, blocking, kicking and other actions that cause physical harm, or actions that are more mild but make a person uncomfortable.
This includes unwanted advances, jokes or messages of a sexual nature, requiring sexual favors for a promotion or job security, inappropriate commentary or even tone of voice. The bottom line is that actions identified as sexual harassment are inappropriate, sexually charged and make someone feel ill at ease.
How to report harassment
If you see something, say something! This is the best policy with most workplace concerns, especially harassment. Communicate your policy to employees and let them know if they are victims of harassment or just witness it, it’s their responsibility to report it. Provide clear instructions for how to do so, including the appropriate contact, department and method (by email, phone call, etc.). Remind them it’s confidential to file a complaint and there is no retaliation for doing so.
The danger of doing nothing
Ignoring problems does not make them go away. Harassment needs to be addressed, swiftly and adequately, to ensure the safety and harmony of your workplace. And with laws that protect employees from workplace harassment, you’re required as an employer to abide by them. Not doing so could lead to legal action, bad press and a shadow on your reputation as a great place to work.
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