Signs and Terminology of Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment can take many forms: verbal, physical, social, and cyber. The harassment can be subtle or overt. It is no longer black and white, and often, when we address the behavior, it is too late for mediation. Instead, we need to resort to some more severe remediation practices. It is important to look for the signs of harassment in the workplace. Below are some signs that can indicate the presence of workplace harassment:

  • There is a “hush-hush” attitude
  • Complaints become office rumors and gossip
  • Company hazing or bullying
  • Complaints dismissed or ignored
  • People don’t report harassment out of fear
  • Threats or blackmail
  • Gaslighting or relational aggression
  • Employees who pursue reporting are belittled

Determining these behaviors can be difficult if stuck in a covert, toxic environment. So, let’s break down the terms a little more.

Verbal Abuse: Frequent use of offensive language, derogatory remarks, insults, or belittling comments directed towards an individual. Yelling or put-downs. Sometimes, sarcasm can also be seen as verbal abuse, especially targeting a divergent learner.

Discrimination: Mistreating someone based on their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. This can manifest in different ways, such as limiting opportunities, denying promotions, or making derogatory remarks. It can also be seen as targeting that person due to their differences.

Intimidation or Threats: The use of intimidation or threats to control or influence others, making them feel unsafe or fearful in the workplace. This can include aggressive behavior, bullying tactics, or creating a hostile work environment. It could be more subtle by setting unrealistic goals to set an employee up to fail. Using threatening, unclear language to force employees to work longer hours or take on more work. Sometimes it can be seen as the manager is just a jerk, but we identify the behavior as intimidating and threatening.

Unwanted Advances or Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome, unwanted, and unwarranted or inappropriate sexual comments, gestures, or actions that create discomfort or a hostile work environment. It can be subtle by sending funny jokes, flirtatious behaviors, or sexual innuendos.

Isolation or Exclusion: Persistent exclusion, isolation, or marginalization of an individual from social activities or professional opportunities within the workplace. It can be constantly left out of meetings or not being included in decisions, or left out of work emails altogether.

Retaliation: Any negative actions taken against an employee for reporting or speaking out against harassment. Retaliation can include threats of termination, demotion, or unfair treatment. We have also noticed it can be inventive remarks or performance comments that could be easily linked to retaliation.

Excessive Monitoring or Surveillance: Invasive and excessive monitoring of an employee’s activities without justifiable reasons or legitimate job-related purposes. This happens more than we want to admit, and it is typically out of fear, and it can be clearly related to retaliatory behaviors.

It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and every workplace may have unique manifestations of harassment.  There are so many different components that factor into workplace harassment that it is important to look for early signs to intervene.

If any of these signs or other concerning behaviors are present in the workplace, it is crucial to address the issue promptly and seek guidance from management, human resources, or an appropriate authority within your organization. Peagram Consulting offers training, coaching, and remediation services to help you get back on track and ensure that your organization stays in compliance.

We hope that this information can help you better understand the signs of workplace harassment.

Please reach out if you need tools, resources, coaching, or training.

Until Next Time,

Dr. Kortney Peagram

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