Do you feel trapped in your job? Do you feel bullied and mistreated by your colleagues? Is the work environment toxic that you feel it's better to throw in the towel? If yes, you are not alone. A recent study shows that over 70% of Brits have experienced workplace harassment.

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment is an occurrence that happens when a group of employees or an employee feels belittled. The belittlement can be caused by colleagues or the employer. Workplace harassment can also be considered workplace bullying. Workplace harassment in toxic work environments reduces productivity and can cause a loss of self-esteem.

When an employee is constantly being harassed, the work environment becomes toxic. It is important to note that if you do not deal with workplace harassment, you can get depressed. The harassment can be sexual, emotional, verbal, or physical. If you believe that you are facing workplace harassment, get in touch with your human resource manager to seek protection before it begins to affect you.

Forms of workplace harassment

Contrary to popular belief, workplace harassment is more than just sexual abuse. Other forms of workplace harassment include:

● Name-calling
● Making unwelcome comments
● Making offensive jokes
● Sharing derogatory pictures
● Insults
● Making unwelcome physical contact
● Threats

5 Examples of harassment in the workplace

If you are confused about what workplace harassment is, do not worry because we have listed the ten main types of harassment experienced by British workers. Workers who experience these forms of harassment are advised to visit the Equality Advisory Support Service. One of the most common types of harassment in the country is discriminatory harassment.

1. Discriminatory harassment

This type of harassment is defined by its intentions rather than how it is used. This discrimination discriminates against gender, age, religion, nationality, and colour. Below we examine this form of harassment in more detail.

Racial harassment: A victim of racial harassment is harassed based on skin colour, citizenship, or country. Racial harassment includes slurs, derogatory comments, racial jokes, acting disgusted around the victim, and intolerance.
Religious harassment: This type of harassment is caused when a group of employees victimise an individual because of their religious beliefs. This behaviour manifests itself in various ways, and one of them is making cruel religious jokes. It also includes degrading stereotypical comments and pressuring the victim to convert to another religion.
Gender harassment: This form of harassment is mostly targeted towards the marginalised in the community, such as gays, lesbians and transgender people. Another example of gender harassment is when an employee is bullied for having a female-perceived job, such as nursing. It is also harassment if a transgender man is called she.
Ability-based harassment: This type of harassment applies to people living with a disability. It also affects workers who use disability services or care for a disabled person.

2. Personal harassment

Unlike harassment based on gender and religion, personal harassment is based on the victim's personality, looks, or occupation. Most countries do not consider personal harassment illegal, but it does cause negative psychological effects on the victim.

One example of personal harassment is making offensive jokes. It can also take the form of making overly critical remarks, humiliating the victim, or making inappropriate or rude comments. It is not uncommon for employees to claim that they did not know their jokes were offensive to the victim. However, this does not matter if the victim feels humiliated and bullied.

3. Power harassment

This type of bullying results from the harasser being a person of higher rank in the office hierarchy. This means that the harassment is caused by a supervisor or a senior manager in the organisation. Power harassment can be in the form of physical or verbal intimidation.

An example of power harassment is when the manager makes excessive demands on the employee that are impossible to meet. Other examples include making demeaning demands, such as ordering employees to work on duties below their pay grade. A good example of this is instructing an accountant to clean the office.

Other examples include intrusion into the victim's personal life and forcing the victim to do things outside their scope of work. This can include working excessive hours without pay or demanding sexual favours to pass a promotion.

4. Physical harassment

First, it is important to note that physical harassment is illegal. In some circumstances, this form of bullying can be classified as an assault. Workers should avoid physical gestures such as soft punches or playful shoving because it blurs the line between acceptable and unacceptable.

Other examples of physical harassment include threatening the victim directly, physically attacking the victim, and destroying property. The aggressor can also be charged if they make threatening behaviours such as angrily shaking their fist.

Workers likely to be exposed to physical harassment include health workers, social service employees, and night guards. Others are peace officers and workers working in remote areas.

5. Psychological harassment

Victims of psychological harassment feel belittled, embarrassed, and unwanted. It affects the victim's psychological well-being causing depression. Psychological harassment can also cause domino effects that affect the victim's social life and physical health. One example of physical harassment is gaslighting the victim.

Gaslighting is a psychological behaviour that makes the victim question their sanity. Other forms of physical bullying include:

● Belittling the victim.
● Denying the victim exists.
● Opposing everything the victim says even though it is important.

Lastly, Online bullying is also considered harassment. A good example is when work colleagues share humiliating pictures of the victim. It is also harassment when a colleague spreads lies about the victim on social media. Masterminds of these crimes can be charged with the Defamation act 2013 or the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

In conclusion, it is wrong and sometimes illegal to subject a colleague to harassment. In addition, it is wrong to subject a colleague to religious, racial, or gender harassment. Victims of workplace bullying should report to their supervisors immediately before it gets out of hand.

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