Workplace harassment is a commonly observed, yet, less talked about subject, especially in Asian countries. The disparaging or intimidating behaviour towards an employee or a group of employees is known as workplace harassment or bullying. There is a fine line of difference between workplace harassment and workplace bullying. While repeated disturbing behaviour, actions or remarks on a permanent basis form workplace bullying, office harassment can be a matter of just one or few instances.   

Harassment at work can be based on race, religion, gender, nationality, disability among others.  It can be malicious, aggressive, insulting, or threatening. Women are more likely to be victims of sexual harassment at work. There are different types of workplace harassment – it can be seen in the following forms: 

  • Extreme unfair criticism
  • Constant practical jokes targeted at an individual or group of individuals 
  • Constant rejection of leave applications and denial of promotions 
  • Intentional misleading duties at office place
  • Unnecessary watch over the performance 
  • Sexual favours
  • Continuous threats and disgraceful remarks 

Significant Facts About Workplace Harassment

Facts About Workplace Harassment
  • As per the INBA (Indian National Bar Association), approx. 38% of Indian women face sexual harassment in India and out of these, 69% do not report it.
  • According to one of the surveys (CNBC), 19% of adults in the United States have experienced sexual office harassment.
  • As per the WBI (Workplace Bullying Institute), more than 60 million people get affected by harassment at work. 
  • More than 35% of females face sexual harassment in the corporate sector jobs 
  • The victim of workplace harassment is not always the individual harassed. Rather, such negative behaviours also affect co-workers, creating a harmful environment. 
  • The result of continuous workplace bullying or harassment can be lethal. The victims often suffer from various types of physical and psychological issues. Physical conditions include hypertension, increased risks of diabetes, insomnia. They can go into trauma and can have suicidal thoughts.

Various Types Of Harassment At Workplace

Having a thorough knowledge of different types of workplace harassment will help you deal with it and will also let you help other victims. 

1. Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment

Due to the recent #MeToo movement, there is a wider awareness of sexual harassment.  Previously considered as a hush-hush topic, it is now being spoken about openly.

Sexual harassment may consist of:

  • Disgraceful sexual comments
  • Sharing, displaying or showing sexual materials like porn images or video
  • Sexual questions creating annoyance 
  • Unwanted physical advances 
  • Dirty sexual jokes 
  • Quid pro quo (this for that) meaning the sexual bribes or workplace benefits that are provided in exchange of sexual favours 

2. Verbal Harassment

Verbal Harassment

Out of the various types of workplace harassment, verbal harassment in the workplace is perhaps the most commonly observed one. It includes upsetting a person through various verbal remarks.  Body shaming (making critical comments about a person’s body to humiliate the person), for example, is a form of verbal harassment.

3. Gender Harassment

Gender Harassment

The biased conduct against individuals based on gender is called gender harassment. People usually harass others because of their own notions of how men and women should work and behave as per their gender. 

4. Harassment Based On Work Performance

Harassment Based On Work Performance

Such harassment involves acts like unwanted interference, false blame, stealing the concepts of others and other such things. 

5. Threatening Harassment

Harassment At Workplace By Threatening

Such harassment includes various threats and socially marginalised individuals in the workplace. 

6. Harassment Based On Caste, Religion, Skin Colour & Nationality

Harassment Based On Caste, Religion, Skin Colour

At workplaces, people may also get harassed because of their faith, complexion, caste or nationality.  

How To Recognise Workplace Harassment/Bullying

  1. You can easily recognize that you are being harassed at your workplace if you continuously face unfair evaluation, false blames, personal insults, demeaning attitude, ignorance, uncomfortable remarks and mocking behaviour. 
  2. Women can know that they are being sexually harassed when they face unwanted physical advances, sexual comments, sexual bribes, workplace benefits in exchange of sexual acts or things like watching or sharing porn clips, images and videos by other colleagues. 
  3. If you face any sort of discriminatory act, attitude or verbal remarks based on religion, caste or skin colour at your office, you are surely getting harassed!

How To Deal With Workplace Harassment

No one should ever tolerate workplace harassment. Several helpful ways of dealing with it are mentioned below:

1. Do Not Stay Silent

Do Not Stay Silent In Case Of Workplace Harassment

Regardless of what type of workplace harassment you face, never stay silent. Talk to your colleagues as they may support you and can help you find some solution. 

2. Report About The Harassment

Report About The Harassment At Workplace

Try to find a responsible person in your office who would listen to you and may help you. It may be your HR official, your team leader or even the highest authority of your company. If you think that you can confide in any such person and can converse safely, do go ahead and share your problem. 

3. Take Legal Advice

Take Legal Advice In Case Of Workplace Harassment

If you do not know what to do about being harassed at the office, take legal help. Meet a legal advisor or lawyer who can guide you about appropriate steps.  

4. Don’t Take Back The Complaint

If you have registered a complaint against office harassment, do not take it back, no matter what. Remember, you might go through tough moments like enquiry consisting of your lifestyle, attitude and even character, face it with courage and do not compromise on your complaint. 

5. Talk To The Person Who Is Harassing You

Do not ignore the person who is harassing you. This will make him stronger and he will continue doing his wrongful deeds. Instead, face him and try to talk to him. Tell him that his attitude, remarks, act or behaviour is irritating you and that you are not feeling comfortable with such act or behaviour. 

6. Start Documenting

Start Documenting When You Are Facing Harassment At Work Place

Whenever you feel that you are being harassed at your office, start keeping the record of the same. Try to note down the dates and time of particular incidents. Be it an email, physical document, SMS, or even a piece of paper with disturbing remarks or statements, do keep a record of such written things that indicate harassment.

7. Check The Policies Of Your Company

Read the company policy. Try to find out if there is any such policy that helps the employee in case of harassment. Few companies have policies that address the harassment issue and the employee may get support from such policies. 

8. Ensure Proper Surveillance

Ensure Proper Surveillance In Case Of Workplace Harassment

CCTV cameras are a big help and support. Ensure that your office is equipped with them. Appropriate surveillance arrangements at workplaces decrease the risk of office harassment. Unfortunately, if your office doesn’t have CCTVs, request the authorities for the same. Remember, the CCTV cameras are quite helpful as they serve as strong evidence and their footage can be checked instantly to verify things. 

9. Stay Strong And Positive

Stay Strong And Positive While Fighting Against Harassment

The most important thing in the case of office harassment is that you should stay very positive and strong. It would help if you did not let the negative thoughts come into your mind. You should be determined and courageous enough to face such challenges. 

Never stay silent if you feel you are being harassed at your workplace. Fight back! Harassment at work does not affect the single individual; it even affects the fellow workers and creates a stressful, negative and unproductive environment. Stay positive, courageous and confident and never give up! This is your life, your profession and your career. You cannot ruin it or compromise on it just because of others’ unwanted interference. Fight back courageously and always remember – ‘Where there is a will, there is a way!’

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