Physical Harassment At Work: Indicators Of Harassment At The Workplace

Various forms of physical harassment include using intimidating gestures, Sexual assault or abuse or sexual rape, kissing, hugging, touching or grabbing someone forcibly, etc. Purposely rubbing one’s body against someone, blocking another employee’s movements, or unwelcome touching another employee’s hair, clothes, etc., is also a form of workplace violence.

Examples & reasons of physical harassment

  1. Physical violence of a sexual nature against employees

Sadly, statistics show 81% of women experience sexual harassment at least once in their lifetime at work. It includes situations like unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors from other employees, etc. While today office staff are not afraid to confront the harasser, some look for other job opportunities & leave their present job, reducing employee retention. 

In addition, the physical violence of sexual nature towards other employees generally arises over a series of events rather than one situation of misconduct. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize the forms of sexual misconduct and then report them to the management. The typical signs of sexual violence are as follows. 

  • One employee touches another one improperly.
  • An office staff creates intimidating physical situations for the other employee, such as trapping them in a doorway or corner.
  • When an office worker shows offensive or obscene gestures & leering looks to the other employee.
  • Sexual abuse, Sexual assault, or rape.
  • Improper sexual advances & quid pro quo harassment.
  1. Physical violence at work related to racial bias

Physical harassment at the workplace also happens due to racial biases. Therefore, physical violence is common in offices with individuals from many different cultural backgrounds & ethnic origins.  

In general, this form of physical violence includes unwelcome behavior toward employees because of their race. Constantly mocking someone by calling them derogatory names, joking & racial epithets are also other forms of intimidation that can lead to physical violence. Here is how racial biases turn to physical violence. 

  • Situations that start with innocent comments then become violent with physical touching, hand gestures, and physical threats. 
  • Physical harassment based on race includes blocking the employee’s movement and threatening them.
  • Inappropriate touching of the employee’s hair, clothing, or body creates a hostile work setting.  
  1. Physical violence due to differences in national origin

Unfairly treating an employee because of their country of origin is not uncommon in offices. The difference in language, personality, and favoritism towards colleagues of their own country are the reasons behind this type of harassment. Examples of racial bias-based physical violence include the following behaviors.

  • Unwanted touching of the employee’s face, parts of the body, or clothing to intimidate them.
  • Cornering them by blocking their way, mocking their accent, making poor comments about their culture.
  • Destroying the employee’s personal property and threatening them to leave their job.

Most of these forms of physical violence at work can stem from various reasons. Poverty, family violence, a job layoff, demotion, being fired, disciplinary action against someone due to another employee’s complaints are some common reasons.

In addition, financial problems, too much pressure at work, and no appreciation, unconscious biases can also make an employee jealous & aggressive towards others. Therefore, it is crucial to spot the early signs of physical violence and correct them before the situation turns worse.

Possible indicators of physical harassment

Mentioned under are some possible indicators of harassment in the workplace that may be directly affecting your employees. 

  • When an employee exhibits dramatic behavior changes and becomes argumentative with co-workers, they can physically harass other employees. 
  • When an employee is uncooperative, is found writing or drawing notes that refer to violent acts or sexual aggression, they are likely to show physical violence at work. 
  • Office staff must face appropriate consequences if they threaten to harm others at work physically.
  • The office staff who disregards company policies against physical violence steals or damages official or personal property of co-workers must get punishment.
  • Carrying a concealed weapon or displaying a weapon-like gun indicates possible physical violence. 
  • Excessive focus or disapproval of a particular person can lead to a violent situation. 
  • Hostile gestures including, fist-shaking, pounding desks or walls, & kicking, are the signs of physical aggression.
  • Offensive language and threatening other employees via phone, email, or letters are early signs of physical harassment.

Signs that your employees are being harassed or have faced physical violence

Research shows that 31% of all victims feel depressed upon experiencing sexual or physical misconduct in office. Therefore, it becomes crucial to spot the signs so you can help these victims & stop the physical violence from happening again. Here are the things that indicate that your staff might be facing physical violence.

  • When employees become moody, they are absent more than usual and miss important work-related meetings. 
  • When you notice performance changes and an employee discusses alcohol or drug use.
  • When dedicated office staff suddenly stop coming to work, the reason might be they are victims of workplace violence.
  • Decreased productivity, making silly mistakes at work indicates a troubled worker who might be a victim of physical violence.
  • Sudden changes in the behavior of an otherwise happy employee often suggest a brewing or escalating issue with violence.
  • Constant or continuous blaming or excuse-making, inability to accept responsibility if left unchecked can escalate to violence.

How to handle physical harassment

Often most office workers do not come forward to talk about physical harassment thinking about the consequences. A survey shows that 39% of employees aren’t confident that their issues will be addressed justly & reporting it might work against them. 

Therefore, it is necessary to assure them that there will be no reprisals against reporting employees. You must show your office staff that the company will support them. Here are the steps you must take to deal with physical harassment at work. 

  • Build robust company laws that protect your employees from physical violence based on race, sex, or national origin.
  • Help your office staff to complete the prevention training program. In addition, encourage all to join other skill-developing courses to create a diverse violence-free work setting.
  • Create a board of employee representatives who can work for the health and safety of your office staff.
  • Make strict rules against physical violence at work that apply to employees at all levels, clients, & independent contractors too.
  • Help employees seek legal guidance if you know your colleague has been the victim of physical harassment.
  • Define your company policy against workplace violence in concrete language & show that violence is completely intolerable behavior in your office.
  • Take third-party help from an office behavior training provider to show your dedication towards stopping physical violence at work. 
  • Set examples and show your employees the results of making threats or committing violent acts. 
  • Ask your managers to invest time in talking about office issues your in-house teams may be facing. Tell them to motivate all staff to report incidents of violence and even take reports from witnesses.
  • Finally, encouraging workers to speak up against physical violence is not enough. You must monitor & review your policy regularly to ensure you have a violence-free work culture.


A positive office space reduces negativity, increases employee engagement & productivity. Thus, it is best to encourage violence-free work culture in your office. If you are looking to take the first step, start motivating workers to join courses designed for learning the best office skills. Help them learn more now and eradicate the possibility of physical harassment fast.

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