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How to Deal With Workplace Harassment

Many employees in various industries suffer workplace harassment or bullying – repressive, demeaning or obnoxious conduct. Recent research indicates that the majority of victims of workplace bullying do nothing to rectify the problem. Employees who take no action to deal with harassment problems have been shown to be far less productive compared to other employees. Furthermore, harassment in the workplace can have a negative effect on the organization.

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Workplace Harassment Definition

Workplace harassment can be defined as unsolicited hostile behavior shown through verbal, written or physical conduct, which causes the victim to experience anguish, as well as suffer emotionally, physically, economically or mentally. Workplace bullying or inability to contain workplace bullying is designated as a type of employment or workplace discrimination. Bullying includes a wide variety of behaviors, including offensive jokes, racial slurs, intimidation, hostility, name calling, insults, mockery, threats, physical assaults, and the like.

Types of Workplace Harassment

It is important to note that both women and men can suffer harassment at the workplace. While women are the targets in more of the cases, there has been an increase in the incidence of men being harassed or bullied by their co-workers or bosses. Thus, bullying can occur between colleagues, juniors or seniors regardless of age and gender. An employee who is denied of his basic rights, benefits or opportunities can be said to have suffered harassment as well. Workplace harassment is of various types and they include the following:

Sexual Harassment:

This is when somebody behaves in a manner that makes an employee feel intimidated, offended or distressed and the behavior is of a sexual nature. Harassment as a result of somebody’s sexual orientation has been classified under sexual harassment as well.

Disability harassment:

This is when an employee experiences unwanted behavior connected to their disability, and it causes him or her to feel degraded, offended or intimidated.

Racial harassment:

This is any offensive action or remark against a worker based upon color, sex, race, national or ethnic origin.

Stalking or bullying:

Any type of verbal persecution done with the purpose of undermining, intimidating, humiliating, or demeaning an employee is regarded as workplace bullying.

Tips for Dealing with Harassment at the Workplace

  1. Keep contemporaneous notes about such incidents. To establish that someone is harassing you, what really count are the regularity, number and the patterns, and not individual incidents. While the aggressor can justify individual incidents, the pattern cannot be explained away. What establishes intent is the pattern.
  2. Do not keep your contemporaneous notes at the workplace where other employees can have access to it. Keep it in a safe location, preferably your home. Photocopies of essential documents should be kept at a separate location. It is not uncommon for the aggressor to ransack the target’s desk drawers, steal the notes, and even use it as proof of wrongdoing.
  3. Record everything that the aggressor says and does in your contemporaneous notebook. You should also make notes about every conversation with any other person, including management or other employees connected with the harassment. Bear in mind that you might be accused of unprofessional conduct when you take this action.
  4. When the attacker criticizes you or makes any allegations against you, remember to make notes about it and ask him or her to corroborate their allegations in writing. Ask the bully to provide irrefutable and substantive proof. If the bully fails to provide irrefutable proof, remind the person in writing that you have asked for an explanation and the aggressor has opted not to respond. If this occurs a third time, write the attacker once more, pointing out that making accusations and failing to corroborate them or refusing to provide irrefutable proof is a type of bullying or harassment. The aggressor’s accusations and criticisms, which are typically based upon falsehood, blame and distortion, are an invention for control purposes.
  5. Keep copies of every email, memo, letter, and so forth. Taking contemporaneous notes about everything will make it difficult for the aggressor to deny everything later.
  6. If you choose to report the attacker to management, bear in mind that the bully may deny everything. Also, you should expect the attacker’s bosses to disbelieve everything you say and deny the harassment. This is because the aggressor might have deceived them into believing that you are in the wrong.
  7. If the actions of the bullying colleague or manager forces you into ill-health retirement or sickness absence, or causes you to suffer a stress breakdown, be sure to record this within the accident book. This is an excellent way to make an official report about the harassment. Write your employer, informing him or her that the aggressor’s actions have led to injury to health.
  8. You should carryout a background check about the attacker. The internet offers huge potential for researching process and history. Furthermore, it provides almost total anonymity. By carrying out a background check, you can ascertain if the person who is harassing you has harassed some other person in the past and how the problem was dealt with.
  9. Seek Medical Help
  10. If you have suffered emotional damage as a result of workplace harassment, you should seek help through your healthcare professional, or via employee assistance program, if it is offered by your employer. If there is no medical record indicating that you have suffered psychological damage, a jury or court might not be willing to award you significant claims even if the harassment conduct is established to be unlawful.
  11. If the harassment has caused you to be depressed, anxious, stressed up, etc (which means you may be suffering from PTSD) and your employer is demanding that you return to work, inform your employer in writing that your absence from work is a result of psychiatric injury symptoms due to stress caused by other employees’ offensive behavior as well as overly stressful working conditions. You should also inform him or her that you will return to work as soon as you get better, and that they should assure you that they will fulfill their duty of providing you with a safe and secure work environment as required by the Safety at workplace Act.
  12. If your employer fails or refuses to intervene, or supports the aggressor in his or her attempts to remove you from the organization, you can ask your attorney to write to somebody in authority stating the manner your employer has treated you. He should state that your rights will be strongly defended against the aggressor’s offensive behavior. By doing this, you will shift attention to the aggressor. This will most likely compel your employer to take action in order to address the harassment or bullying.
  13. If everything fails, you should think about leaving the organization. This is actually a positive decision considering your highly hostile work environment, which you have little or no control over. Leaving is the most reasonable thing to do in this type of circumstance. Find another organization where your abilities and values will be appreciated. Do not allow a loser to wreck your career or damage your health. It is best to avoid serial bullies because they are neurotic and obsessive in conduct. Even if your present employer pays competitive wages, you should not sacrifice your career, health, and family for financial stability.

Lastly, if you are compelled to leave an organization due to workplace bullying, make sure you inform your employer about this in writing. Before you sign anything, seek the advice of your attorney.

Sources

http://www.bullyonline.org/action/action.htm
http://legalcareers.about.com/od/careertrends/a/Dealing_With_Workplace_Harassment.htm
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/harassment-in-the-workplace.html

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