Work Harassment: Types, Effects And Methods To Prevent It

According to several legal sources like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC, workplace harassment involves unwanted behavior towards another employee based on race, religion, sex, color, and more. This also includes the act of requesting sexual favors, verbal or physical harassment, and any other behavior that may restrict the freedom of the victim in the office. 

More often than not, women and people belonging to older age groups are victims of workplace harassment. The research found that women who belonged to the African American community were the most discriminated against in the workplace. 

A study carried out by clinicians belonging to Harvard School of Public Health delved into the effects that work harassment has on an employee. The study carried out in 2019 was the first of its kind, while the respondents who participated were flight attendants from several airlines.

The results were conclusive and without doubt groundbreaking, as most respondents who were victims of workplace abuse or sexual harassment stated that their mental health suffered a great deal. This situation is not restricted only to the airline industry and flight attendants. Rather, it is a common trend in several offices across America. Therefore, to prevent work harassment, it is important to highlight the negative effects on a victim. 

Types of Work Harassment

In general, workplace harassment can take place in five ways. This includes: 

  1. Sexual Harassment

This form of workplace harassment is more rampant and still goes unreported than the other types of workplace harassment. In fact, in 2017, employees made 26,978 claims of work harassment to the EEOC, of which a little more than half were said to involve sexual harassment. 

Sexual harassment usually involves the following: 

  • Quid Pro Quo 
  • Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

Although both involve unwelcome sexual advances carried out by one co-worker against the other, the quid pro quo sexual harassment is more prevalent and holds greater punishment. Both types, however, are damaging to the victim, as one will see further in the article. 

  1. Verbal Harassment

It involves the use of slurs and other vocabularies that an employee may find offensive in the workplace. Examples of verbal harassment include taunting, hurtful comments, body-shaming comments, and discussing another person’s private life. This form of harassment can be hard to investigate or prove, as in most cases, there is no physical evidence of harassment. 

  1. Physical Harassment

Physical harassment can have more severe ramifications in comparison to other forms. That can include anything from physical assaults to damaging personal property in the office. In most cases, physical harassment takes place under the guise of a prank. 

  • Digital Harassment 

It involves degrading another employee on online platforms, including making threats or making fun of another employee, on social media platforms or emails, and more. It tends to happen to a lesser degree as incidents can be documented easily and reported. 

The Effects of Work Harassment 

The aftermath of an incident of workplace harassment can be especially damaging to the victim, both mentally and, in some cases, financially as well. In addition to this, it can be damaging to the company as well. For individuals, the effects may include: 

  • Emotionally Deteriorating

Most studies that have been carried out to investigate this matter have found that any form of workplace harassment can cause the victim to develop depression. A research paper in 1997 also found that in severe cases of harassment, one in ten victims report developing PTSD. The negative effects of the harassment can also result in the victim becoming distracting and, therefore, sustaining physical damage as they may be involved in dangerous jobs that require constant attention. 

  • Forced Unemployment

More often than not, the employees that are victims of workplace harassment will be more likely to terminate their job. Forcing themselves into unemployment. This fact implies that these employees will have to undergo significant financial stress due to the harassment. 

  • Reduced Learning Opportunities

Employees will likely leave their current job if they experience severe harassment, which can reduce learning opportunities. Additionally, it will limit their career growth because of the several job changes and changes in the office in which they work. Victims may also refrain from participating in one-on-one mentoring sessions or other opportunities. 

For a company, the prevalence of workplace harassment can involve

  • Reduction of Productivity

Work harassment can also be damaging to a company as it can drastically decrease the productivity of every employee, not only the victim. With the harassment within the office, there is an air of hostility that develops. Employees, especially the victim, may also take many more leaves as they are no longer able to engage with the work that they are doing. 

  • Loss of Revenue

If the victim decides to file a lawsuit against the company, it can result in a significant loss of revenue for the company. Additionally, hiring new employees will become difficult for the company due to the reputation that it has attained. 

  • High Employee Turnover

As mentioned before, the immediate effects of harassment at work involve employees taking more regressive steps. After some time, if the harassment is severe enough and the perpetrator is still working at the office, the employee will terminate their employment entirely. Employees who are not directly victims of harassment and see such discrimination may also choose to leave. 

Methods to Prevent Work Harassment 

It becomes evident that an office cannot leave harassment to continue in the office. To protect every employee and the company’s welfare, a company must implement certain measures to prevent workplace harassment. That includes: 

  • Introduce of Strict Zero-Tolerance Policy 

The policy that the company chooses to implement can drastically reduce the cases of workplace harassment and microaggressions. It will help instill a change in the culture at work and, therefore, in every employee. Minor cases of work harassment are also. 

  • Simplify Complaint Process 

The complaint procedure should also be simplified and explained to every employee as early as their onboarding. By doing so, the company will have an accurate idea of the harassment incidents in the office. Ensure that the investigation into any complaint is quick and explores all the facts provided by the victim. 

  • Training Programs

The training programs are important to educate employees on how to recognize and react to harassment. It is important to ensure that these programs are taken seriously to reap the most benefits from them. Whether it is a diversity and inclusion program or a sexual prevention program, the presence and participation of every employee are of utmost importance. 

Work harassment can leave a conspicuous blemish on the company’s brand and the company culture. But more importantly, it can result in the victim experiencing several negative effects. Therefore, a company needs to take proactive steps as stated above to prevent it. 

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Impactly’s online sexual harassment and diversity, equity & inclusion training packages are used by hundreds of organizations across the country. Impactly is powered by Get Inclusive, one of the largest providers of prevention and compliance training for colleges and universities.