Bullying is bullying, no matter who’s doing it or where it happens, and that includes the workplace. Workplace harassment is considered a form of bullying. There are many different types of workplace harassment; it can be verbal or physical behaviors. Bullying at work, whether the behavior is being exhibited by a co-worker, supervisor or someone from the upper management staff, can create a hostile, intimidating environment for anyone involved. Sometimes the bullying comes in the form of offensive words or actions and these types of behaviors are also considered forms of workplace harassment.
Types Of Workplace Harassment
There are two types of workplace harassment: harassment due to discrimination and workplace harassment due to other reasons.
Harassment Discrimination: based on personal characteristics or beliefs
- skin color
- where you are from
- political beliefs – discriminating on the basis of political ideology
- religious beliefs – discriminating based on someone’s faith
- gender identification – which is discrimination based on cross-dressing and/or transsexualism
- sexual orientation
- physical or mental disability
- marital status
- veteran status – which means discrimination using any type of abusive verbiage directed at a veteran such as “baby killer,” etc. It can also mean discrimination based on any type of unfavorable discharge from the armed forces
- reporting illegal behaviors, questionable working conditions or work practices (which leads to fear of retaliation)
Many people avoid reporting intimidating or hostile behaviors because they fear termination or some other type of retaliatory recourse. As an employee, you may not realize that the above types of actions are a form of harassment and that most of the above mentioned behaviors are illegal in many states. Therefore, you don’t have to fear retaliation. That means if you are experiencing any type of intimidating behavior, there is no reason you shouldn’t report it or should allow it to continue. You have the right to work in a non-hostile, non-discriminatory environment.
How to Report Workplace Harassment Discrimination
If you feel you are being harassed or bullied at work due to any of the above mentioned behaviors, you will need to report the events to your supervisor or upper management. You should begin by keeping detailed notes of who, what, where, when and any other information that may be important when describing the situation.
You should then talk to your supervisor or whoever it is you report to. Then talk with the human resources department where you work, if there is one. After taking these steps and the situation isn’t getting any better, and you feel you are being discriminated against due to your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information you can report the incident to the EEOC. The EEOC will first offer to help you settle the dispute by mediation and if the issues are still not able to be resolved, your case will be assigned to an investigator.
Other Types of Workplace Harassment: Based on Unwelcome Verbal or Physical Actions
There are many other types of workplace harassment other than discrimination and many people don’t realize that these types of harassment are also forms of bullying. There are different laws for different states; therefore, you will need to learn which types of behaviors could possibly constitute harassment in your area before you begin to pursue any charges. Here are some examples of workplace harassment you need to be aware of:
- negative comments about an employee – whether it’s from a co-worker or from management
- disparaging physical or mental characteristic comments about an employee – whether it’s from a co-worker or from management
- any type of racial slurs, words or phrases – no matter how mainstream the terms are
- offensive gestures or sounds
- vulgar gestures
- displaying any type of images that are offensive – things such as art, posters, calendars or anything else that could be considered offensive
- sharing offensive or inappropriate images, emails, notes, etc.
- any type of offensive clothing or accessories
- inappropriate touching or physical contact
- unwanted sexual contact or sexual advances
- any type of innuendos or veiled threats
- conversation about obscene or insulting stories
- offensive jokes of any kind
- shouting – in private or in front of others
- over-monitoring or constantly criticizing someone’s work
- the deliberate overloading of work
- purposefully setting someone up to fail
- intentionally holding back the information a person needs to perform their job effectively
- intentionally excluding someone from normal workplace conversations and making them feel unwelcome
The Signs You Are a Bullying Victim
You may be a bullying victim and not even realize it because you’ve become so accustomed to the repeated behaviors. Here are some signs that indicate you may be suffering from being bullied at work.
You could have trouble sleeping, have nausea and or vomiting because you’re afraid to go to work. You are obsessively talking with friends and family about your problems at work. You spend all your days off dreading going back to work. You are experiencing increased health issues such as high blood pressure or stress. Or you may be feeling guilty because you think something you’ve done has provoked these harassing workplace behaviors.
How to Stop Bullying and Harassing Behaviors at Work
Bullying should never be the reason you leave your job. Especially if you like where you work and want to continue working there. Here are some steps you can take if you are experiencing any type of workplace harassment.
1. Talk with the bully and ask him to stop the behavior that’s bothering you. However, you should never yell, raise your voice or escalate your response in any way. Otherwise, you could make the situation worse. Always address the bully in a low, calm, collected tone of voice. If after talking with the bully, the behavior doesn’t stop, proceed to the next step.
2. Keep notes about each bullying event. You should record the bully’s name, the date, the time, the location and what occurred. Additionally, you should make note of anyone who witnessed the events. Keep all forms of paper bullying as well, such as emails, notes, pictures, etc.
3. Always remain calm and don’t allow yourself to run to your boss each time an event occurs. Take the time you need to collect your evidence, then meet with your boss in a calm environment and address him in a professional manner. Then offer your documentation and explain why you feel you are being harassed. This will give you a better chance of being taken seriously rather than coming across as a whiny, emotional employee who overreacts to every situation.
4. If necessary, set up a meeting with the human resources department. Bring your evidence, your witness and explain your case in a calm professional manner. You may want to practice what you are going to say before the actual meeting. This will make you come across as natural and you will feel better prepared. Do your best to keep everything as short and sweet as possible. Then allow your HR department the time they need to investigate the situation.
5. If after everything else the bullying continues, you then have the right to take your case to the next level. Whether that be to higher management personnel or to a lawyer.
Bullying and workplace harassment are not things anyone should put up with. Learning the signs of bullying and workplace harassment and knowing your rights are the first step in correcting the situation. You should never allow a bullying incident to continue. You have the right to work in an environment where you won’t be harassed or discriminated against in any way – no matter how small or insignificant you think the incident may be.