There are many forms of workplace harassment and many interpretations. Even the most experienced HR professional can miss them.
You will be better equipped to assist victims of workplace harassment in resolving their issues, helping them file a harassment complaint, and implementing office training.
This guide will help you identify 11 common forms of workplace harassment, and show you how they may intersect. We’ll also share three tips to reduce harassment at work.
1. Discriminatory Harassment
All workplace harassment that is illegal is discriminatory. Discriminatory harassment, however, is not defined by verbal or physical harassment. It’s determined by the intentions of the harasser, and not how they are carried out.
Racist harassment can occur to victims based on their race, skin color, origin country, or citizenship.
Sometimes, it may even be a perception of an ethnicity’s characteristics (curly hair or accents, customs and beliefs, clothing, etc.). This is what racial harassment looks like
- Racial slurs
- Racial insults
- Racial jokes
- Degrading remarks
- Tolerance for differences
Gender-based harassment refers to discriminatory behavior toward a person based upon their gender.
Harassment often centers on negative gender stereotypes of how men and women should act. Here are some examples:
- Male nurses are harassed for doing what is perceived to be a woman’s work
- A female banker is taunted by a male colleague for not being “leader material”
- A male colleague shows material (comics and posters) that is degrading to women
While religious harassment can be interconnected with racial harassment, it focuses on the victim’s religious beliefs.
A person with a different religion than the “norms” of the company could be subject to workplace harassment and intolerance.
- Intolerance towards religious holidays
- Intolerance towards religious traditions
- Tolerance towards religious customs
- Cruel religious jokes
- Stereotypical and degrading comments
- Conversion pressures
Harassment of the disabled
Disability-based harassment refers to workplace harassment directed at individuals who are:
- A person with a disability may also suffer from it.
- You are familiar with disabled people or persons
- Utilize disability services (sick-leave or workers’ compensation)
Harassment can occur in the form of abusive teasing, patronizing remarks, refusals to accommodate reasonable needs, isolation, or even complete disorientation for a person with a disability.
Sexual Orientation-Based Harassment
Sexual orientation-based harassment is becoming more popular and recognized as a valid form of workplace harassment. Victims are harassed because of their sexual orientation.
Any sexual orientation is acceptable (heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, etc.). This type of harassment can occur depending on the job they do.
A homosexual man might be harassed on a construction site, while a heterosexual man could be teased for his work in a salon.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides protection for workers aged 40 and over. This is to encourage older people to work and lessen age-based harassment.
Age-based harassment could be:
- Told and insulted.
- You are not allowed to attend activities or meetups.
- Unfairly criticised…
It’s simply because they are older and have to deal with the stigmas. This harassment can sometimes be used to push an individual into early retirement.
2. Personal Harassment
Personal harassment is any form of harassment in the workplace that doesn’t involve one of the protected groups (e.g., race, gender, or religion).
It’s bullying at its most basic, and while it’s not illegal, it can be very damaging.
Examples of personal harassment
Personal harassment can include:
- Inappropriate comments
- Offensive jokes
- Personal humiliation
- Ostracizing behavior
- Intimidation tactics
Any other behavior that can create an intimidating or offensive work environment.
3. Physical Harassment
Sometimes called workplace violence, physical harassment refers to workplace harassment that involves threats or attacks. Physical harassment can be considered assault in extreme cases.
Playful shoving and other physical gestures can blur the lines between acceptable or inappropriate behavior. It’s the receiver who decides if the behavior is unacceptable.
Physical harassment must be addressed in the workplace.
Examples of physical Harassment
These are some of the most common behaviors:
- Direct threats of harm inflicted by intent to inflict
- Physical attacks (hitting and shoving, kicking, etc.)
- Threatening behavior (shaking hands angrily)
- To intimidate, destroy property
Industries at Risk
Certain industries have a higher rate of workplace violence among employees. This includes healthcare workers, peace officers, and social service employees, teachers, educators, retail staff, and drivers of public transit.
4. Power Harassment
Power harassment is a form of workplace harassment that involves harassment that results in a power imbalance between the harasser/harasser.
Harassers use their power to bully a victim lower up in the hierarchy.
In most cases, the harasser may be a manager or supervisor who victimizes subordinates.
Exemples of power harassment
Power harassment doesn’t have to be restricted to one type of behavior. You can use intimidation verbal or physical violence to harass someone.
It’s usually psychological. The victim is subject to:
- Exceedingly high demands that are difficult to meet
- Employees are unable to meet demeaning demands.
- Intrusion into the personal life of an employee
5. Psychological Harassment
Psychological harassment can have a negative effect on one’s psychological well-being.
Victims of psychological harassment feel often degraded and marginalized on a personal or professional level.
A victim’s psychological health can often be damaged, which can have a domino effect on their physical, social, and work lives.
Examples of Psychological Harassment
This is what psychological harassment at work might look like
- Isolating or denying the victim’s presence
- Belittling the victim or trivializing their thoughts
- Spreading rumors or discrediting the victim
- All the statements of the victim should be challenged or opposed