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Workplace Harassment 101

Mar 10, 2022
HR Acuity

Workplace harassment. Workplace misconduct. Workplace bullying. Workplace mistreatment. You’ve likely heard one or more variations of these terms, but the bottom line is they all pertain to unwelcome and unwanted behaviors in work settings.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is defined as, “unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender/gender identity, nationality, age (40 or older), physical or mental disability, or genetic information.”

While many choose to believe that workplace harassment is a thing of the past, the sad truth is that it’s actually on the rise. Mistreatment in the workplace – whether in person or not – leads to unproductive, hurtful, toxic and unsuccessful environments. When you or someone in your organization is a victim, it’s common to feel confused and in the dark.

Common Types of Workplace Harassment

Psychological Harassment
The term “Psychological Safety” has grown in popularity as workplaces put more of a focus on protecting their employees total wellbeing. Psychological harassment is arguably the hardest to identify as it affects victims mentally, not physically. This type of harassment consists of irritating behavior that involves repeated hostile and unwanted words, actions, or behaviors that are painful, hurtful, annoying, humiliating or insulting.

Verbal Harassment
Verbal harassment is also tricky to pinpoint in that it is another non-physical form of harassment. It typically consists of offensive gestures, demeaning remarks, unreasonable criticism, insults, slurs, hurtful comments and unwanted jokes.

Physical Harassment
Physical harassment is still considered harassment if the harm is not severe. This occurs in varying degrees but is detrimental regardless of severity. Forms of physical harassment include (but are not limited to) unwanted touching of skin, clothing, hair, or any other part of the body. More severe forms include damage to personal property, assault or threats of physical violence.

Sexual Harassment
While it often affects women more than men, sexual harassment can affect any gender. Sexual harassment consists of unwanted sexual advances (touching, jokes, messages, etc.) or requiring sexual favors in exchange for benefits in the workplace. It’s important to note that sexual harassment is often covered up in ‘seemingly harmless’ comments and gestures.

With the (somewhat recent) rise of digital mediums, this is the newest form of harassment. Cyberbullying consists of actions such as posting threats or demeaning comments on a social platform, bullying the victim often via a fake persona, and making false allegations online.

While one or more of these actions may be taking place in the workplace, the kicker is this: Harassment becomes unlawful when:

  1. Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment
  2. The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

The result of each type of harassment listed above is the victim’s overall wellbeing is threatened and the work environment becomes toxic. This leads to not only distress, but also a decrease in productivity and performance, low morale and oftentimes turnover.

Whether you believe your workplace is experiencing any of these forms of harassment or not, it’s important to have tools in place to help your employees feel safe to come forward and report. That’s where Speakfully comes in. Speakfully is a platform that allows employees to anonymously and safely report workplace concerns. It provides the organization’s admins the ability to view real-time data and analytics surrounding company culture so they can step in and take action before it’s too late.

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