Workplace harassment continues to be a growing epidemic. It subjects victims to sometimes irreversible psychological and physical harm. Yet, it is not only an HR professional's duty to spot workplace harassment. Every person in the office should familiarize themselves with what it could look like.
If you're well-informed, you're better equipped to help a victim cope with their experience. You can also learn how to file a harassment complaint or take the necessary steps to get your department properly trained.
Before we dive into the most common types of workplace harassment, what are the qualifiers? Well, according to the U.S. Department of Labor:
"Under federal law and Department of Labor (DOL) policy, harassment by DOL employees of DOL employees based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, or parental status is prohibited. The Department of Labor does not permit harassing conduct by anyone in the workplace, including contractors."
To help you become more informed, we've listed the five most common types of harassment found in the workplace and what you can do to bring alleviation quickly:
Discriminatory harassment includes taking negative steps towards others due to their race, religious beliefs, or gender. A full list of what accounts for discriminatory harassment can be found here.
Power harassment is characterized by a power imbalance between the harasser and the harassed. The harasser may use their professional ranking to bully the victim and coerce them into unwanted acts.
Physical harassment can involve violence, physical attacks, or threats. In severe cases, physical harassment can be classified as a form of assault towards the victim.
We live in a digital world where user-friendly interfaces do not always promote friendly behavior. For example, instant messaging applications offer convenience, but can also create a space for easy targeting.
Cyberbullying simply means using any digital tools to scare, harm, or sadden the victim in some way, shape, or form.
Psychological harassment can really damage one's psyche, making victims feel insecure, put down, or belittled.
Psychological suffering can also lead to a downward spiral in one's family, work, and social life—so this one can be quite significant in the long term.
How to Stop Workplace Harassment
1. Focus On Policy
Ensure the company you operate or work for has a strict code of conduct policy. Do these policies elaborate procedures regarding what to do if and when harassment takes place?
If there's a policy in place that is enforced and accurate, it will help staff abide by it and mitigate future misconduct. Along with policy, it's imperative that an internal complaint system exists. This will allow the victim's right to anonymity.
2. Show Support
Victims may be embarrassed or fearful after a harassment experience. This is why providing a platform for victims to safely discuss their experience (and for you to show your support) is crucial.
3. Train Your Staff
Train your employees, or if you are an employee, learn what harassment is and how to recognize it. Most importantly, familiarize yourself on how to report it through the proper channels. Be sure to keep the victim's experience private and safe.
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