harassment at workplace

Some people mistakenly believe that harassment is necessarily associated with intimate harassment. But in international practice, this term means discrimination of any kind. So, the concept of harassment is close to the term “bullying”. It includes all types of discrimination. Unbearable working conditions can leave big consequences for employees. Harassment can destroy their personality and family life, it can even lead to suicide. Check if you or someone you know has experienced workplace harassment and learn what you can do about it.

Features of the phenomenon

One of the books on the subject, Violence at Work, equates harassment with a murder. Do you think this is unfair? But then it is worth remembering how many people committed suicide as a result of this phenomenon or how many of them become patients in psychiatric clinics. The psychology of the aggressor is such that he is ruled by an unwillingness to understand the feelings of others. How can harassment be recognised? And how to protect yourself from it? First, let’s consider the main types of this phenomenon. And then we will analyse how it is possible to neutralise it.

Type No. 1: Discrimination on Various Basics

The most popular type of harassment is gender discrimination. Often, it is women who suffer from this type of aggression, because most employers want to see men in leadership or important positions. Both young girls and older ladies are discriminated against, believing that they should make room for other workers.

Occasionally male workers can make unpleasant jokes about women. Considering that hiring a woman in that workplace is a ridiculous mistake, they discriminate against female employees. If the management does not notice these problems in time or choose to ignore them, it can lead to the most serious consequences. At a minimum, the company risks losing a competent specialist if the victim decides to quit. In the most neglected cases, the case can go to court proceedings.

Another common type of harassment is ethnic or racial bullying. It would seem that the days of fascism are long gone, and humanity should have learned important lessons of tolerance. But no, in some workplaces, less intelligent workers still allow themselves to make biting jokes about skin colour, clothing, or other signs of the different ethnic or racial indicators. It is not uncommon for the members of the collective to discriminate against someone for his beliefs and religion. As long as a person does not seek to impose his views on others, his worldview can in no way be the subject of mocking. Neither religious holidays, nor customs or traditions, nor clothing — should cause disrespect from adults working together.

Type number 2: discrimination based on personality traits

This type of harassment is also often found in office spaces and other workplaces. This type includes inappropriate comments, offensive jokes, the humiliation of the person. Also, criticism and even threats are frequent.

Sometimes the behaviour of team members goes to the point that they behave as if they did not notice the presence of one or more employees. In milder versions, the expressed thoughts or actions of a person are devalued. As a result, a victim feels humiliated both as a person and as a professional.

Type 3: Internet harassing

Modern technologies also influence the behaviour of aggressive team members or even employers. Examples of harassment carried out through the internet are numerous: Emailing the victim with content that insults it, spreading rumours or gossip on social media, calling at an inappropriate time, sending pictures or messages with inappropriate content, etc.

Type No. 4: Intimate harassment

A characteristic feature of this type is a gradual increase. As a result, a hostile environment is created around the employee. Sexual harassment makes their life uncomfortable, negatively affects their professional activities, personal life and health.

Sexual harassment includes: sending sexual photos or text messages, hanging up explicit posters in the workspace, dirty jokes, questions, comments, inappropriate touching, invasion of personal space, sexual gestures.


Inappropriate signs of attention are not yet harassment, but not business communication. If you are familiar with the rules of business etiquette, then it will not be difficult to recognise and stop such harmless actions.

Courtesies that transcend business ethics:

Long, haunting eye gaze

Gazing at lips or sliding over a figure

Inappropriate compliments

Deliberate violation of business distance, approaching more than 60 cm

Touching the body other than shaking hands

All of this could be an attempt at flirting or an act of sympathy. Nothing criminal, but if it is intrusive and unpleasant, it is worth stopping such behaviour. An indifferent look, lack of reaction — an adequate person will immediately understand everything. In an extreme case, you can directly say  that such actions are unacceptable for you. The main thing is to say it decisively and calmly, without a smile or coquetry.

How to fight against harassment?

The level at which harassment in the team should be eradicated is managerial. Ordinary employees can do little against peer aggression. After all, it is in the power of the organisation’s managers to establish the rules according to which the communication process in the team will be carried out. This will influence the manifestation of emotional abuse among employees. After all, when the aggressor goes unpunished and is not afraid to lose anything as a result of his offending behaviour, he will continue to get away with it.

You should not be silent

Another effective way to resist harassment is to openly defend your rights. Do not let go of what the aggressor is doing. In this case, it is much better to enter into open confrontation than to silently endure other people’s behaviour. When an employee initially concedes, then he risks losing the initiative completely and taking on the role of a victim, which the aggressors seek to impose.

Contact a lawyer

Depending on the situation, you need to either seek the initiation of a criminal case for harassment or file a lawsuit for the violation of your rights. In both cases, it is necessary to provide evidence: screenshots of correspondence, recordings of conversations. Contacting specialised workplace harassment lawyers will be the best decision.


Victims of harassment often prefer to remain silent also because they foresee the consequences of publicity. There will certainly be employees who will condemn them, believing that because of “little things” they provoke squabbles in the team. However, this should not be the reason for silence. Every employee can and should defend his rights, including at the workplace. Regardless of what type of aggression the abuser shows.