Harassment at Workplace
Manasi Shah | HRM, Ethics, Leadership in International Organization| 31.01.2018
Table of Contents
Forms of Harassment 2
Causes of Harassment 3
Measures to curb harassment at workplace. 3
When one hears the term ‘Harassment’ in an organization, the term is automatically associated with sexual harassment. Harassment in organisations is seen as, all those acts that repeatedly and persistently aim to torment, wear down, or frustrate a person, as well as all repeated behaviours that ultimately would provoke, frighten, intimidate or bring discomfort to the recipient.i How employees maintain their interpersonal relationships at work, has a significant impact not only on the stress levels of the employees but also the quality of their work. This, in turn, can also affect an organisation in terms of reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and reduced turnover as the focus of the employee’s shifts from performing their tasks to dealing with hostile issues. For a long time, harassment meant the women to a large extent, were the ones who would suffer sexually derogatory comments or behaviour from their male counterparts, superiors or subordinates at work. Eventually, the focus also moved to men, who also in some cases were victims to sexual harassment.
However, over a period of time the understanding of harassment at workplace has changed and is no longer related to only sexual harassment. Name calling, scapegoating, physical abuse and work pressures were claimed to be as frequent and as severe as sexual harassment.ii Bullying and harassment are situations where a worker or supervisor is systematically mistreated and victimized by fellow workers or supervisors through repeated negative acts like insulting remarks and ridicule, verbal abuse, offensive teasing, isolation, and social exclusion, or the constant degrading of one’s work and efforts.iii Such behaviour can occur, not just between seniors towards their juniors or subordinates, but also between employees or colleagues who are at the same level. Unfortunately, the existence of such a work environment in today’s day and age is a reality that must be faced by employees in organizations belonging to both public as well as private sectors.
According to a report from the RAND Corporation which shows the share of U.S. workers who have been subjected to abuse and harassment in 2015. Over the past month, 13 percent of men and 12 percent of women had to put up with verbal abuse at work. Over the last 12 months, 9.6 percent of men and 11 percent of women experienced bullying or harassment. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one-third of the 90,000 complaints received in 2015 included a harassment allegation. The agency also estimated that around 75 percent of all harassment complaints went unreported.iv
Source: RAND Corporation, https://www.statista.com/chart/10693/how-often-do-us-workers-experience-abuse-harassment/
Forms of Harassment
As mentioned above, there are various forms of harassment that can occur in an organisation. When an individual faces harassment, it is noted that the individual goes through social isolation and exclusion, devaluation of one’s work and efforts
1. Verbal abuse:
2. Bullying: Repeated mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or that which interferes with work.
3. Sexual harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
4. Racial/ religious harassment: Any unwanted comment referring to the worker’s religious affiliation or racial background that attempts to humiliate or demean a worker.
5. Age harassment: include offensive remarks about a person’s age and treating that person unfavourably on basis of his/ her age.
6. Stalking: is unwanted or obsessive attention which includes staring, following or monitoring.v
Causes of Harassment
Harassment can be caused due to a multiple of reasons. The tension, stress, and frustration caused by a job situation characterized by high role conflict, lack of self-monitoring possibilities, and poor performing supervisors, may be perceived as harassment when attributed to hostile intentions (Brodsky, 1976). Role-conflict and lack of work control may also be related to bullying and harassment through its creation of elevated tension, stress, and frustration in the work group. This situation may then act as a precursor of conflict and poor inter-worker relationships. The experience of great work strain is generally found to have a negative impact on a person’s relationships with colleagues.vi
Measures to curb harassment at workplace