Did your colleague sabotage and acclaim your work? Did your boss threaten you for no reason? Does your peer leave offensive messages on e-mail or gossip behind your back? Do your seniors put you down in front of customers, management or other workers due to poor communication skills? Does your boss talk rudely to you?
What constitutes workplace harassment? All the situations mentioned above and more add up to workplace harassment. Harassment covers behavior ranging from restrained pressure to forceful tactics in any form of verbal, written or physical conduct that belittles or demonstrates aggression or loathing towards a person on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, age, status, political affiliation and/or disability.
Various reasons for harassment of peers and subordinates include creating a hostile or unpleasant work environment, interference with employee’s work performance or that which affects the ability of an employee to carry out his or her duties, future employment opportunities or compensation. It is important to recognize harassment signs early to avoid major conflict at a later stage. The victim of harassment should strongly voice his or her objection to offensive behavior, allowing the offending individual(s) to take corrective measures.
Organizations should have a strict workplace harassment prevention policy in place. The policy should outline the organization and its employees’ commitment towards harassment and a proper code of conduct at work.
The first thing an employee can do to avoid workplace harassment is to simply avoid the person(s). The victim can reason with the offender(s) for finding out the root cause of the inappropriate behavior. In case the problem persists, the victim should get in touch with his or her manager or HR department.
If the manager or HR department does not help resolve the problem, the victim should consider taking legal action against the Company for creating a hostile workplace environment and against the offender for harassment.
Organizations should have a complaint handling system for reporting, investigating and resolving workplace complaints. The system should be unbiased and comply with workers, managers, superiors, etc.
By training and educating employees on workplace harassment issues, companies can avoid or control harassment. Many organizations have sensitized themselves to the needs of employees. They organize sensitivity training or diversity training to facilitate respect between people of different religion, ages, genders or races.
Such training should invite participants to talk about any conflict in the face of work environment and encourage them to share their perspectives on the conflicts. Role play exercises by enacting conflict scenarios can help participants realize how their actions can affect other people.
Likewise, even governments have laws in place that provide victims with legal protection from all kinds of workplace harassment.
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