Workplace Harassment


The term 'Harassment' is a form of discrimination. It includes any unwanted physical or verbal behavior that offends or humiliates you. It covers a wide range of behaviors of an obnoxious nature. Such behavior affects the physical and mental well-being of a person.The ‘Me Too’ movement gave courage to numerous people to speak openly about offensive conduct at the workplace.Yet, many are still skeptical about opening their mouths and reporting harassing behaviors of managers or colleagues.

Workplace Harassment is common but not openly talked about in utmost work surroundings. It can ruin a job and could turn a company into a poisonous terrain. Many individuals are not even sure of what is considered to be harassment at the workplace because of which a lot of cases go unreported and it continues to be a problem. The ‘Me Too’ movement has enhanced the awareness of sexual harassment. There are a lot of employees who leave the company due to a hostile work environment but do we know the real reason behind it? Do we for once think that it could be because of some other reasons? What if the employee faced some kind of harassment at the workplace that had gone unnoticed? Or maybe the employee didn’t know the definition of workplace harassment and couldn’t comprehend what exactly happened? To understand what workplace harassment is we need to look at its definition : Workplace harassment is threatening or belittling behavior directed at an individual worker or a group of workers. The sole purpose of the harasser is to make the victims feel uncomfortable and unsafe at the place where they work. The harasser can be your boss, your administrator from another department,or a co-worker.Harassment occurs when people target multiple groups, including women, sexual minorities, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

Harassment at the workplace can be of any type and it might or might not have any kind of physical substantiation but we can’t deny its existence. Harassment includes bullying, slurs, epithets, intimidation, physical assault, joking, insults, ridicule, offensive pictures,and interference in work performance. There are five major types of workplace harassment-

1.       Verbal Harassment- Victim faces an ongoing battle of destruction that threatens their health and career equally. It includes offensive gestures, unwanted criticisms,etc.

2.       Psychological Harassment- It is a form of deliberate psychological bullying. Victims who face such harassment are likely to suffer from mental breakdowns, low self-esteem amidst others. It includes making impossible demands, taking credits for others’ achievements,or forcing someone to work outside their job scope.

3.       Cyberbullying- Social media has become a norm in the workplace hence in the name of free speech anyone can harass anyone digitally. But there is a piece of good news as well; anyone who faces such harassment can document it by taking screenshots, saving e-mails, etc.

4.       Physical Harassment- Physical harassment has many degrees; it includes physical assault, threats, improper touching of clothing, or damaging personal property. People belonging to gender minorities and LGBTQIA+ minorities are more likely to face such kind of harassment.

5.       Sexual Harassment- Relatively being more common at a workplace, sexual harassment is an offense restricted not just to women ; a person belonging to any gender can be a victim of this heinous crime. Sexual harassment can include unwanted touching, asking for sexual favours, sending obscene videos or messages and so.

In the legal sense, these are behaviors that appear to be disturbing or threatening. They evolve from discriminative grounds and have an impact of injuring or nulling an individual from taking benefit of their rights. Most of the complaints about workplace harassment go unreported as the victims have insufficient knowledge about the process of registering a complaint or at times they are spooked to take any actions against the perpetrator due to the fear of losing their job or getting shamed by the so-called society for doing the right thing.

Understanding and recognizing workplace harassment is the first step in dealing with this toxic problem. It is of course imperative to follow up with the necessary conduct to put a stop to it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. A healthy, positive, and harassment-free environment eradicates toxicity and helps in employee engagement along with increased productivity. Maintaining decorum and practicing zero tolerance towards harassment are necessary for any company's business growth. Thus, it is of utmost importance for you to make sure your workplace does not encourage harassment and discrimination towards anyone.

 Written by: Shubhika Maheshwari



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