How Do You Know When You’re Dealing With Workplace Harassment?

In addition to all the “normal” stressors that a job entails—the juggling of projects; dealing with sometimes difficult clients or co-workers (or bosses); budgetary and deadline concerns—there are some men and women who dread going to work due to an environment that, for them, has turned decidedly hostile.

This is the case when someone in the workplace is being targeted by unwanted attention. Another term for this unwanted attention is harassment.

Whether harassment is discriminatory in nature or whether it occurs for no apparent reason, there’s no doubt that dealing with this sort of interaction leads to high levels of stress and feelings of frustration.  Immediate supervisors and co-workers can be negatively affected as well, as the target of the harassment may feel apprehensive or uncomfortable a large part of the time, and may not be able to “pull their weight” when it comes to working as part of a group.

To be classified as actual harassment, it must be more than just one instance of teasing or taunting.  There must be a pattern of abuse or insults.

The bottom line is that, if an action is unwarranted or unwanted; is distressing you and happens regularly, it should be addressed. If it has been addressed and continues, chances are that it’s harassment.

If you further feel you need to endure this sort of mistreatment or risk losing your job, you are a victim of workplace harassment.

What are the discriminatory components of harassment?  They usually fall into the following categories, although there may be others: race, religion, gender, age and disability.

The most common forms of harassment are:   mockery based on discriminatory factors; sexual innuendos or direct or indirect remarks of a provocative nature; an actual physical, sexual or verbal assault or inappropriate physical contact; intimidation aimed at making you suspicious, troubled or fearful in the workplace; and any pictures or drawings or other symbols that are sexual in nature and that you find offensive.

Interestingly, the definition and resolution methodology of workplace harassment differs from country to country.  Spain, for instance, has no specific statute regulating sexual behavior In the workplace (although there are a scattering of provisions which form a framework of protection).  By contrast, Sweden adopted the first legislation on sexual harassment in the Equal Opportunities Act in 1992. Under the Act, an employer must ensure that no employee is sexually harassed. Employees who are found to be harassed are entitled to damages.

To view the site of a firm that deals specifically in workplace harassment, go here:  

For the “Worldwide Guide to Termination, Employment Discrimination, and Workplace Harassment Laws”, by Cornell University, go here:

To attend an audio conference (or purchase the CD) on how to respond to allegations of misconduct, go here:  Conducting Internal Workplace Investigations, From Complaint to Closure.  Scheduled for:  Tuesday, July 26, 2011.



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