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8 Tips for Coping With Harassment at Work

Harassment isn’t a problem that has just increased in the school system. It’s become a bigger problem in workplaces as well. By taking contemporaneous notes of harassment you experience you can address many of the emotional issues harassment causes. Having this these types of notes available is also important should you need to take the matter to court. Being harassed doesn’t simply affect your emotional well being. It can also affect your physical health in the following ways:

  • Increased amount of headaches
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Clinical Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • PTSD

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Recognizing Harassment

Learning how to recognize harassment is important so issues can be addressed properly. It’s possible that you’re working with someone who is having a bad day, going through a rough part of life, or may be a difficult person to work with. In order to prove that you are being harassed you must determine the intent behind the harassers actions. Fortunately there are some signs of harassment which can help you determine whether the other person was having a bad day, has a behavioral issue that must be addressed by management, or is purposefully harassing you. Contemporaneous notes of events can help you reflect and determine the intent behind the harasser’s actions. These signs of harassment are as follows:

  • It Keeps Happening

Knowing that the behavior will happen again is a clear sign of being harassed. You have experienced the behavior multiple times and have come to expect it from the harasser. Having any sort of contact with the harasser brings up anxiety and feelings of dread. You may also feel singled out or recognize other colleagues that are experiencing harassment.

  • Increased Anxiety Before and During Work

The fact that harassment keeps happening and you can expect it to means that you will experience more anxiety when returning to work. You may feel anxious to the point where you have trouble sleeping, become nauseous and vomit from anxiety and fear over going to work. When you have increased anxiety you’ll also experience over thinking and may find yourself worrying about different scenarios that could happen and go out of your way to avoid the harasser and the possibility of the scenarios happening. Spending additional time finding ways to avoid the harasser makes working even more stressful than it already is.

  • Obsessing on Work

Even when you have a day off from work you have a hard time relaxing. You spend a lot of time worrying about going back to work and this manifests as an obsession where you can’t stop thinking and talking about your problems at work. Family and friends may express frustration over how much you talk about work problems. Even though you know it upsets your friends and family you have a hard time not talking about it because it stays on your mind.

  • Feeling Guilty

One of the ironic things about abuse is that it’s easy to blame ourselves for the behavior that others are exhibiting towards us. Instead of making the harasser take responsibility for their negative behavior it’s easy to get emotional and feel that you’re somehow responsible for being abused. Remember that it’s never your fault that you’re being harassed and blaming yourself won’t solve anything. Don’t take the harassment personally as it’s likely you’re not the only one being harassed.

  • Fear In Colleagues

Harassment isn’t something that goes unnoticed in workplaces. Many times when one person is being harassed there’s a good chance that other colleagues have experienced harassment as well. Even colleagues that haven’t been harassed yet notice harassment and feel fear over becoming the next target. When you see other colleagues talking about their harassment or asking you questions about your harassment, you can be sure that harassment is happening at your work. Whenever a colleague speaks with you regarding the harasser’s actions take contemporaneous notes of your conversation. Having proof that others noticed the harassment is strong evidence should you ever have to take legal action towards the harasser.

Different Forms of Harassment

Harassment isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It creates additional stress for you and for others witnessing the behavior. Workplaces are supposed to be a productive environment where a group of people with specific skills and experience can work together to accomplish things and get things done. Behaviors that are considered harassing can come in many different forms. Contemporaneous notes of the following examples of different forms of harassment should be maintained to help you address your harassment issues:

  • Vicious gossip
  • Shouting
  • Name calling
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work
  • Excessive monitoring
  • Personal insults and criticism
  • Overloading someone with work
  • Purposefully not training someone for job duties
  • Changing rules to trap you into failure
  • Setting up someone to fail
  • Being excluded from normal workplace activities

Coping With Harassment

Though some of these forms of harassment seem worse than others they all have the same negative effects. Being harassed causes emotional distress and can cause physical ailments to plague your life. Whether you consider your harassment to be minor annoyances or major problems that could derail your career, there are a few things you can do to help yourself feel better while harassment is still occurring.

  • Use Company Resources

Many times companies will invest in getting a harassment advisor, mediator, or specially train HR managers to help employees deal with harassment issues. Ongoing harassment that causes noticeable levels of emotional and physical distress can be a liability for companies. Most companies invest in resources for handling these issues before they become a legal issue. Having the courage to speak to an HR manager or a supervisor is one of the first things you can do to help yourself feel better.

  • Keep a Harassment Journal

Maintaining contemporaneous notes of harassment is important when utilizing company resources. Without a record of what’s going on it becomes difficult to place you with company resources that can help. On top of recording the date, time, witnesses, and details of the harassment, it may also benefit you to journal about how you feel after being harassed. When maintaining a harassment journal it also helps to record any sources of stress, triggers, as well as coping mechanisms you’re using to help you deal with being harassed. Keeping records of emotional distress and witnesses will help you should legal action be required.

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal

On top of recording your harassment it’s beneficial for your mental health to record different things that you’re grateful for and make you happy. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you focus on what’s going right in your life. By doing this you will make a way for you to escape your negative thoughts. Remembering the good things about your life will help you remember that your stressful situation is temporary.

Dealing With Harassment as It Occurs

There’s nothing more difficult than knowing and being prepared for situations as it occurs. There are some methods of coping that must be used as the harassing behavior is occurring. These tips will help you handle the emotional abuse of harassment as it occurs much easier.

  • Don’t Take it Personal

Many times harassment has very little to do with you. People who abuse others do so because that’s how they’ve been treated in the past and the behavior becomes normal and acceptable to them. There likely isn’t a specific reason why the harasser has chosen you to be the target of their negative behavior so it’s important to never blame for yourself for what you’re experiencing right now.

  • Don’t React

Many times people choose to harass others to get a reaction out of them. If you show little or no emotional response to being harassed, the behavior could dwindle down and may even stop completely as the harasser will move on to another target that will give them the emotional response they’re looking for. Don’t expect things to change quickly though as it will take a few incidents to show the harasser that you won’t give them any emotional response. Not giving an emotional response also makes it easier to detach yourself from what’s happening and makes it easier to move past traumatizing events.

  • Establish Boundaries

If showing no emotional response doesn’t help your situation, the next step in handling harassment as it occurs is to speak up. When the harasser goes too far or keeps crossing lines take response by vocalizing that their behavior towards you isn’t acceptable. Remain professional and courteous when setting boundaries with your harasser. Never take the opportunity to harass them back as it can cause a vicious cycle of repeated abuse. Take contemporaneous notes of any actions taken to set boundaries and how the harasser responds to your attempts to set boundaries.

  • Build a Support Group

One of the things that can make a huge difference in how well you’re able to handle harassment is how much emotional support you have in your workplace. Even if coworkers are too afraid to stand up for you, knowing that you have someone you can talk to about what’s going on can help you deal with being harassed as it happens. Being harassed and feeling alone is a quick set up for anxiety and depression.

  • Don’t Expect Things to Change

Without taking action you can never expect things to change. Ignoring your problem won’t simply make it go away in fact it can make things much worse. Think about how long it takes you to change your behavior when you’re expecting a harasser to change their ways. Real change takes a long time and you have no control over how long or how short it will take for things to change. Don’t back down when setting boundaries and controlling your emotional responses. Being consistent with boundaries and your emotional responses shows strength and many times harassers are looking for easy victims.

Approximately 45 percent of workers in America confess to experiencing workplace abuse at some point of their careers. Harassment can come from coworkers, supervisors, or even management. Harassment can be defined as any repeated, intentional behavior intended to undermine, humiliate, berate, embarrass, intimidate, or degrade an employee. Having contemporaneous notes of all harassment incidents can prove to be a useful tool. Whether you’re using them to help you cope with the emotional distress, using them to utilize company resources, or putting them to use in a legal setting, you will find that your notes will help you create a healthier and more productive work environment for yourself.


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