When an individual or a group of employees feel intimidated or demeaned by their coworkers, it is known as workplace harassment. A workplace perpetrators’ only goal is to make their targets feel vulnerable and unpleasant.
What Defines Workplace Harassment?
Harassment encompasses a wide range of classifications and acts of violation that are not limited to a single group. Harassment occurs when individuals target various groups, such as women, ethnic and sexual minorities, disabled people, and immigrants.
Workplace harassment may or may not be accompanied by tangible proof, but it cannot be denied. Harassment is defined as inappropriate jokes, bullying, slurs, epithets, violent aggression, intimidation, mockery, slurs, inappropriate items or photographs, and interference with work performance, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Types of Workplace Harassment
Harassment at the workplace can materialize in many forms, including verbal and physical harassment, sexual favors, psychological and emotional abuse, etc. The following are the five primary forms of workplace harassment:
- Verbal harassment
Perpetrators of verbal harassment frequently confront a never-ending fight of destruction that jeopardizes victims’ wellness and careers. Derogatory insults, rude gestures, and unjustified critiques are all examples of verbal harassment.
Because this is a non-physical type of violence, it typically includes insults such as fat-shaming/body-shaming remarks, slanderous remarks, and unwelcome taunting. Because this is a gray area, HR managers and executives must be on the lookout for harassing behavior.
- Psychological harassment
Psychological harassment is comparable to verbal harassment in that it is more subtle and involves playing with the victim’s mind. According to a 2019 study conducted by Monster.com, over 90% of respondents said they had been harassed at work, with 40% blaming their peers and 51% blaming their supervisors.
While these figures are significant, most workplace experts feel they do not reflect the entire extent of the problem. Taking credit for others’ accomplishments, making unrealistic expectations, placing impossible timelines on an employee, pushing someone to perform outside their job area, and so on are examples of psychological harassment. This is a type of psychological bullying that is done on purpose.
This type of harassment has cropped up in more recent times, often known as cyberbullying. Even if it occurs online, cyberbullying is just as harmful as physical bullying. The use of social media in the workplace has become the standard. As a result, anyone can harass online in the name of free expression. People might create fictitious identities to belittle or torment their coworkers.
Cyberbullying harassment has been related to higher stress, poor mental and physical well-being, emotional issues, lower productivity, and impaired performance, according to a 2017 research reported in Computers in Human Behavior.
- Sexual harassment
Workplace sexual harassment is a terrible crime that is more frequent than anyone would imagine. It is a crime that does not just affect women. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by anybody, regardless of their gender.
As per a ZipRecruiter poll, 40% of female participants and 14% of male participants had encountered sexual harassment in the workplace.
Women are more than twice as likely than males to be harassed, ranging from gender discrimination to sexual abuse. Sexual harassment allegations against women must be treated seriously and examined as soon as possible. To minimize negative impacts on female employees and increase job satisfaction, measures to prevent sexual harassment must be strengthened.
- Physical harassment
Physical harassment may take various forms in the workplace. Harassment might take the form of inappropriate attire or skin contact, physical attacks, threats, or damage to personal property.
People who identify as gender minorities or members of the LGBTQIA+ community are more likely to be harassed at work. One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs.
Why is Preventing Workplace Harassment Important?
Preventing sexual harassment is a key issue, and an increasing number of businesses are implementing compulsory training for all employees. According to data on sexual harassment in the workplace, training gives appropriate and practical knowledge so that everyone is completely aware of inappropriate behavior and its repercussions.
Only 15% of businesses have made a concerted effort to develop particular measures to handle sexual misconduct.
Since 2017, organizations have begun to pay greater attention to the situation. According to recent statistics, two out of ten businesses attempt to eradicate all present and potential unethical workplace behavior.
Problems in Curbing Workplace Harassment
- The lack of set procedures and norms
In 2017, the BBC polled 2,000 people and found that most sexual harassment victims did not report the incident. More than half of all victims remained silent, either out of fear of reprisal or the lack of knowledge on the process of reporting the incident to the organization.
It is important to set explicit definitions regarding workplace sexual harassment through frequent training and revising the harassment policy to include a precise system for handling abuse.
- The lack of encouragement to file for harassment
According to another study, 75% of workplace sexual harassment instances go unreported. This data demonstrates that businesses must do a good job of establishing a culture that encourages employees to report sexual harassment. Regular sexual harassment training and timely action against a misconduct accusation are required in addition to enacting a strict anti-harassment policy.
- The lack of support after filing harassment
According to a study issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2020, retaliation after documenting a sexual harassment episode accounted for 55.8% of the concerns raised in that year. Victims are discouraged from reporting as a result of retaliation, which contributes to toxic workplace culture. Demotion, isolation from workgroups, or an undesirable relocation are all examples of it.
- The lack of support for female victims
A survey verifies the level of mistreatment that female workers face on the job daily. Supervisors appear to sexualize female staff, and unfortunately, 98 percent of harassed respondents experienced retribution from someone in authority at least once.
- The lack of representation for the queer community
Sexual harassment of LGBTQ people in the workplace is more common. According to statistics, 68 percent of LGBTQ employees have been sexually harassed at work. In the most current data, nearly seven out of ten queer employees are sexually harassed at work. Two-thirds of these events are not documented because LGBTQ employees are afraid of being dismissed.
Workplace harassment is one of the most familiar forms of causing trouble for an individual. This affects the quality of work produced, along with the mental health of employees.
Putting in place measures to prevent workplace retribution, such as training managers and other executives to discourage retaliation, aggressively keeping tabs on victims after a report, and making adjustments to reporters’ employment conditions and performance appraisal. These workplace statistics show that companies still have a long road to go before eradicating workplace harassment.