Harassment At Work: 8 Types to Know

Workplace harassment is when the employees or group of employees feel threatened or downgraded by their coworkers. It is also called workplace bullying or aggression, mobbing, etc. It occurs when people target various groups, like women, racial or sexual minorities, immigrants, etc. It cannot have a solid definition. 

It may or may not have any physical evidence, but one cannot deny that it does not exist. Harassment at work will lead to a toxic and abusive workplace. Such an environment can affect the company’s productivity, relations with the employees, and image and reputation worldwide.

Types Of Workplace Harassment 

1. Verbal Harassment 

It can be the result of any personal conflicts that have become more serious. This makes the employees feel less comfortable, humiliated, intimidated, and threatened. People belonging to the LGBTQIA community are more likely to face such harassment in the workplace. 67.5% of this community have reported such harassment as they received many negative comments relating to their gender identities or sexual orientations.

The most common examples of verbal harassment are making inappropriate jokes, posing sexually related questions, asking people out for dates, asking about a colleague’s sexual preferences and history. It also includes gossiping about someone and spreading lies about them, using abusive language and offensive name-calling. 

Making inappropriate sounds like kissing and smacking lips, sending someone sexual emails, notes, or letters is also part of the offense. Verbal attacks by arguing with someone by using threatening and discriminatory words, embarrassing someone in front of others like shouting at an employee by an employer for poor performance, etc. It is often not illegal, but it makes the victim feel uncomfortable. It can be damaging but go unnoticed and unresolved. 

2. Visual Harassment

It is a situation wherein individuals expose themselves to another person without the victim’s consent, and the act affects their attitude or performance. It includes 

  • Exposing one’s private parts, 
  • Sending sexual images to another person is like sending pornographic videos to another person online without informing them.
  • Unwelcome gestures to someone
  • Staring offensively at someone’s body which makes them uncomfortable, drawing an inappropriate cartoon of a coworker
  • Putting up a poster with sexual content, exposing someone’s sexual image without their consent, displaying dirty messages from a book or online means. 

3. Physical Harassment 

It includes improper touching, physical assaults, threats, and damage to personal property. It is also known as workplace violence. It should be taken very seriously. It embarrasses the victim and makes them uncomfortable. It includes sexual assault, rape, touching or grabbing someone appropriately like touching someone’s private parts intentionally, using intimidating gestures, deliberately brushing or rubbing of the body on someone, kissing or hugging someone inappropriately, sexual abuse, destroying someone’s property for intimidating them, threatening behavior, and so on. 

4. Sexual Harassment 

It is the harassment of someone who is sexual. In a survey conducted by ZipRecruiter, among the respondents, 40% of the female ones and 14% of the male ones have experienced sexual harassment. It is a form of unlawful discrimination and must be taken seriously. It is the sharing of sexual photos, posting sexual posters, saying sexual comments, jokes, questions, inappropriate sexual touching, gestures, etc. A person can be the victim of sexual harassment, regardless of gender. Most of the time, such incidents have gone unnoticed and unreported. So, the offenders get away with their actions of misconduct. 

5. Cyberbullying 

This is the newest form of harassment. It is digital harassment; the victim can document it, which is vital evidence. It is the sharing of humiliating things about the victims through emails or online platforms, spreading of lies or gossip about them, sending harassing texts to the victim, etc. According to a study conducted by the University of Sheffield, 80% of the people have experienced this in the previous six months. 

6. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment 

It is translated as “this for that”. It is a form of exchange-based sexual agreement. The employees are to take part in sexual conduct to gain any job benefits from the employer. It is also referred to as quid pro quo sexual harassment. Usually, the harasser is often someone in the top-level management. They offer something sexually. It can be explicit or implicit. Usually, the victim is subject to such offers to avoid termination or demotion, receive opportunities, job offers, promotion, or a raise in exchange for something romantic or sexual.

7. Third-Party Harassment 

This happens when someone outside the organization harasses an employee inside or outside the organization. The examples for third parties are customers, delivery persons, consultants, or someone the employer is connected to. Often people in the lower level are victims of such harassment. Their position and lack of experience pose them as ideal victims.  

8. Discriminatory Harassment 

This is more how about how the discrimination is carried out. It is of various types:

(i) Racial harassment: Employees may face discrimination based on their race. Examples are degrading comments, intolerance of differences, racial insults and jokes, etc. 

(ii) Gender harassment: It is discrimination based on one’s gender.

(iii) Religious harassment: Examples are intolerance against religious holidays—traditions, customs, cruel religious jokes, etc.

(iv) Age-based harassment: Examples are teasing, leaving them out of meetings, being unfairly criticized, etc. 

(v) disability-based harassment: It is harassment based on one’s disability. 

How To Prevent Workplace Harassment 

1. Implement Workplace Harassment Training Exercises

By conducting workplace harassment training, the guidelines set up for acceptable behavior by the organization are reinforced.

2. Outline Reporting Procedures And Investigate Claims

The management must encourage the employees to come forward if they experience workplace harassment. The procedures must be outlined, and claims must be investigated. Most importantly, the administration must take up preventative actions. 

3. Define Unacceptable Behavior In Official Policies 

The management must clearly define the code of conduct or the employee handbook on acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

4. Have The Top-Level Executives Set An Example

If the management is seen cursing other employees, they would feel that it is okay to swear. The administration must make sure that they set an excellent example for their employees. 

A positive, healthy, and harassment-free workplace prevents toxicity and increases employee engagement and productivity. Therefore, the management must make sure that there is no harassment or discrimination in the workplace. To eliminate such harassment, the organization.


The employees must introduce non-discriminatory policies, which must be submitted to the employees and understood by them. They must ensure that the employees follow the norms and rules regarding workplace harassment. If mismanaged, it will lead to conflicts in the company.

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