HOW TO HANDLE BULLYING AND HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE
Everyone has the right to work in an environment that is free from harassment, bullying and discrimination. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, religion violates someone’s right to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness. Bullying, harassment and or discrimination can damage the affected person’s wellbeing, work performance and job security, and it can be destructive to a business by creating a negative workplace culture.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HARASSMENT, BULLYING AND DISCRIMINATION
Discrimination occurs where someone is treated less favourably due to a particular protected attribute, even if the treatment isn’t openly antagonistic .
Harassment is when someone is treated in a way that is offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening because of a particular attribute.
Bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour that places the affected person’s health or wellbeing at risk.
- Discriminatory Harassment
This is a form of harassment that happens on the basis of protected clauses like race, sexuality, age, gender, religion and disability.
- Racial Harassment
An employee can be harassed because of their race and culture. Explicit slurs on their particular attributes of a certain ethnicity (hair type, hair colour, nose shape, etc.) Disrespecting their culture, showing disgust is also a form of racial harassment.
Even perceived attributes of a certain ethnicity (curly hair, accents, customs, beliefs or clothing) may be the cause. Racial harassment often looks like:
- Racial slurs
- Racial insults
- Racial jokes
- Degrading comments
- Intolerance of differences
- Gender-based Harassment
An employee can be harassed because of their sexuality. Employees that have sexual orientations like heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc. may experience this form of harassment.
Negative gender stereotypes about how men and women should or do act are often the center of harassment. Some examples are:
- A male nurse faces harassment for having what is perceived as a woman’s job
- A female banker hits the glass ceiling and taunted for not being “leader material”
- A male colleague displays material (comics, posters) degrading the women.
III. Age-based Harassment
An employee of mature age who is employed in an organisation with a younger workforce, or a young trainee or apprentice who are made fun of, practical jokes, and who is not invited to social functions and meetings can be considered as age-based discrimination.
- Teased and insulted,
- Left out of activities or meetings, or
- Unfairly criticized…
…Simply because of their age and the stereotypes that come with it. Unfortunately, this harassment is sometimes an attempt to wrongfully push the individual into early retirement.
- Disability-based Harassment
Harassing or discriminating against an employee based on their physical or mental disability.
A person with a disability may experience harassment in the form of harmful teasing, patronizing comments, refusals to reasonably accommodate or isolation.
- Harassment based on Religion
Showing hatred, disgust and disrespect to fellow employees because of their religion or religious beliefs.
- Intolerance toward religious holidays
- Intolerance toward religious traditions
- Intolerance toward religious customs
- Cruel religious jokes
- Degrading stereotypical comments
- Pressures to convert religions
- Personal Harassment
This kind of harassment does not depend on any protective clauses. An employee can be subjected to personal harassment by inappropriate comments, offensive jokes, personal humiliation, critical remarks, ostracising behaviours, intimidation tactics, etc. because of general disliking.
Personal harassment includes:
- Inappropriate comments
- Offensive jokes
- Personal humiliation
- Critical remarks
- Ostracizing behaviors
- Intimidation tactics
Or any other behavior that creates an intimidating and offensive work environment for the victim.
- Physical Harassment
Any type of behaviour in the workplace involving physical attacks or threats is considered physical harassment.
Common behaviours that constitute as physical harassment include direct threats of intent to inflict harm, physical attacks (hitting, shoving, kicking), threatening behaviour (shaking fists angrily), destroying property to intimidate.
- Direct threats of intent to inflict harm
- Physical attacks (hitting, shoving, kicking)
- Threatening behavior (shaking fists angrily)
- Destroying property to intimidate
Industries at Risk
Employees in some industries are more at higher risk of workplace violence. These include healthcare workers, peace officers, social services employees, teachers and educators, retail staff and public transit drivers.
- Power Harassment
This kind of harassment occurs when there is a misuse of power in the hierarchy of the management team. Making it impossible to meet deadlines, asking for unnecessary work edits, demanding work that is below the capacity of the employee are the most common behaviours.
- Excessive demands that are impossible to meet
- Demeaning demands far below the employee’s capability
- Intrusion into the employee’s personal life
- Psychological Harassment
Any kind of behaviour in the workplace that causes mental distress to a reasonable person. This harassment is subtle and is difficult to see and identify.
Common acts include: Isolating an employee, belittling his/her thoughts, spreading rumours, criticising or challenging everything he/she says.
- Isolating or denying the victim’s presence
- Belittling or trivializing the victim’s thoughts
- Discrediting or spreading rumors about the victim
- Opposing or challenging everything the victim says
- Sexual Harassment
Unwelcomed offensive and humiliating behaviour that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment can be direct, indirect, verbal, non-verbal, and not always physical in nature.
- Sharing sexual photos (pornography)
- Posting sexual posters
- Sexual comments, jokes, questions
- Inappropriate sexual touching
- Inappropriate sexual gestures
- Invading personal space in a sexual way
- Third-Party Harassment
This kind of harassment is done by the vendor, supplier, customer or client generally to the perceived lower-level professionals such as salespeople, assistants and receptionists.
Third-party harassment is a type of workplace harassment that’s perpetrated by a “third party” – someone from outside of the organization.
Victims are often young adults in “low-status” or “low-power” jobs (think: cashier or sales associate). Their position in the company, their lack of experience and their reluctance to cause a scene make them ideal victims.
- Verbal Harassment
Verbal harassment is when an employee is persistently unpleasant, rude and mean to another.
Obvious verbal harassment behaviors include things like threatening, yelling, insulting or cursing at a victim in public or in private.
If this is aimed at someone in a protected class, it is unlawful.
- Cyber Bullying
Any kind of harassment done on the internet and social media. Common behaviours include tagging in inappropriate memes, texting, emailing or posting disturbing or humiliating messages. This kind of harassment often happens after office hours, but can still be linked to the ‘workplace’ Yes, having a rant on Facebook because your boss pulled you up for poor behaviour during the day is not appropriate!
Cyberbullying and online harassment are a serious concern for employers. Among many, many other things, online bullies may:
- Share humiliating things about the victim by mass email or mass chat
- Spread lies or gossip about the victim on social media
- Send harassing instant messages or text messages directly to the victims
Bonus Content: Retaliation Harassment
This is one of the most common but often unidentified kinds of workplace harassment. Retaliation harassment is a subtle form of retaliation and an often-overlooked type of workplace harassment. The motivation for this kind of harassment is to get back at someone in the workplace.
- Employee A files a complaint about Employee B.
- Employee B finds out about the complaint and who made it.
- Employee B harasses Employee A to get revenge and deter them from filing further complaints.
- Employee B, in this case, would be harassing Employee A as retaliation.
Solutions to workplace bullying
- EMOTIONAL – try your best not to be emotional.
People who bully take pleasure in emotionally manipulating their victims. Think about how you currently REACT to difficult people and those challenging situations. Now think how you would respond to situations. Responding is different to reacting. When you respond you have PREPARED in advance the OUTCOME in your mind. What outcomes would you like to see?
STAND UP – for yourself – if you are being bullied then you should tell the person who is bullying you that their behaviour is unreasonable and inappropriate and you want it to stop. Of course, this can be very difficult if the perpetrator is your boss.
It can be hard to stand up to workplace bullying because the person bullying you can make you feel and believe that “you’re overreacting”, “you’re just over sensitive” and then you’re actually AFRAID of standing up for yourself. It’s all a dominance game.
CONFIDENCE – don’t blame yourself. Acknowledge that this is not about you; it’s about the person who is doing the bullying.
EVALUATE – the situation objectively to see if the situation is bullying.
- RIGHTS – it is important to realise every employer has a responsibility to provide a safe work environment.
- BE AWARE – of your workplace bullying POLICY – from this policy you should familiarise yourself with the REPORTING PROCEDURE. Follow your workplace procedure for reporting bullying.
- RESEARCH – learn everything you can about bullying, your company’s policies on inappropriate behaviour and legislation related to health and safety at work. The more you know, the better your chances of successfully dealing with the situation.
- DOCUMENT – your situation thoroughly – write everything down – who said what – dates and times – list any witnesses – what actions were taken – how you responded. It can be time consuming writing down all the stuff but it is a necessity. What is important is to be SPECIFIC in your recording rather than GENERALISING.
- TALK – with someone you trust. Don’t ignore what has happened or is happening.
- SUPPORT – talk to your legal representative, if necessary.
- COUNSELLING – seek professional counselling or advice, if necessary. DOCTOR – talk to your doctor, if necessary.
- HUMAN RESOURCES – Get supervisors and HR involved.
- STAY HEALTHY – maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle outside of work to help you cope with the madness at work. Work out, get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy diet.
- MOVING ON – if the situation does get resolved you need to move on emotionally. If the situation cannot be resolved then consider your options for leaving.
- CHANGE – don’t expect to change the bully. Real behaviour change is difficult and it takes time. You have no control over the person’s willingness to accept that they have a problem and to work on it.
- It’s really the company’s responsibility to be observant and responsive to the needs of their workers and the general work environment. In the worst-case scenario you may need to leave your job or be prepared for a long hard fight with the person bullying you and your employer.
TO HANDLE BULLYING OR HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE EVERY EMPLOYEE MUST BE FORTYFIED WITH FOLLOWING SKILLS
Skill #1: Act with Awareness, Calm, Respect, and Confidence
People are less likely to bother you and more likely to listen to you if you walk, sit, and act with awareness, calm, respect, and confidence. Projecting a positive, assertive attitude means holding your head high, keeping your back straight, walking briskly, looking around, and having a peaceful face and body. Staying aware also helps you to notice problems so that you can deal with them sooner rather than later.
Skill #2: Leave in a Powerful, Positive Way
Skill #3: Set Boundaries about Disrespectful or Unsafe Behaviour.
Skill #4: Use Your Voice
Skill #5: Protect Your Feelings From Name-Calling and Hurtful Behaviour
Skill #6: Speak Up for Positive Inclusion
Skill #7: Be Persistent in Getting Help From Busy Adults
Skill #8: Use Physical Self-Defense as a Last Resort
What to do if you’re a Victim of Harassment at Work?
If you are a victim of harassment at work because of a co-worker,
supervisor, or anyone else in the workplace, you need to report the
Harassment to your employer.
Below are the steps you should take if
you are the victim of workplace harassment:
does not stop the problem, you need to make this internal complaint to HR
(in writing). You should do this immediately if you fear for your safety.
When you file a complaint with HR, you allow them to investigate the
harassment and make efforts to resolve the harassment.
and/or state agency. Filing an administrative charge
is not filing for a lawsuit, rather you are notifying about the harassment. Filing with a federal or state agency, and obtaining a right-to-sue letter, is a necessary step before you can file a
lawsuit. Without doing so, your lawsuit will automatically be thrown out.
Once you file this charge, the agency will notify your employer and
then either dismiss, investigate, request that you and your employer work
together to settle or mediate the dispute, or it may take other action.
It is possible that the agency may file a lawsuit on your behalf, but this is
extremely rare and only happens in extraordinary circumstances.
a right to sue letter, you can file the lawsuit for workplace harassment. There
is a small window of time in which you can file the lawsuit, from the date you
received the right to sue letter. Talk to a harassment lawyer about this
Filing a lawsuit against your employer for workplace harassment requires
you to make very important decisions, such as where, when, and how.
Talking to a lawyer will help you better understand your workplace rights
and assess the strength of your claims in court.
How to deal with a complaint By Employer
When a complaint of bullying or harassment is made the employer must choose whether the allegation should be investigated as a grievance or disciplinary matter. In general, an employer will investigate the complaint as a grievance initially and if it is upheld the information gathered will be used to take disciplinary action.
If the victim doesn’t want to make a complaint but unacceptable behaviour has been noticed it should still be considered whether an investigation is appropriate.
This is often the easiest and fastest way with which a complaint can be resolved. This type of action will usually be suitable in instances where the behaviour has not been repeated or isn’t serious in nature.
Informal measures may include:
- The victim approaches the alleged bully/harasser and asks them to stop the behaviour.
- Approaching the alleged bully/harasser with the support of a colleague, trade union rep or manager.
- Asking a manager to approach on their behalf.
Dealing with the complaint
Formal action is to be taken if the behaviour in question is so serious in nature that informal proceedings are insufficient. If the allegation amounts to gross misconduct the alleged harasser may be suspended as a precautionary measure while the investigation is carried out.
Investigating the complaint
The investigating manager should try and gather as much information as possible in order to establish the facts of the allegation.
Communicating the decision
The investigating manager should consider whether the facts support the complainant’s case and, if so, what disciplinary action needs to be contemplated, based on the company’s disciplinary policy,
A written report of the investigation and its findings must be prepared.
Both parties should be of the decision in writing and it should be considered: what disciplinary action should be taken (if any), whether a transfer is appropriate and whether any counselling is required, the complainant and alleged harasser must be offered the right of appeal.