Whether you work at a small or large enterprise, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that 32% of employees experience some type of workplace harassment. There are many types of workplace harassment, and it can happen to anyone regardless of gender.
The EEOC also found that 46% of employees don’t report workplace harassment because they fear retaliation. It’s essential for your employees to feel safe. To create a safe work environment, you need to develop policies and training that educate employees on how to prevent and report workplace harassment.
We’ll examine the different types of workplace harassment and how to stop work harassment from occurring. By creating a comprehensive policy and training, you’ll create an environment where employees will feel safe and hopefully won’t fear reporting harassment if it does occur.
10 Most Common Types of Workplace Harassment
It is critical to educate your employees about these common types of workplace harassment:
#1 ) Personal Harassment
Personal harassment is a type of workplace harassment that’s not based on one of the protected classes (such as race, gender, or religion).
Simply, it’s bullying in its most basic form and it’s not illegal but can be damaging nevertheless.
#2) Discriminatory Harassment
All unlawful workplace harassment is discriminatory in nature. But, unlike verbal or physical harassment, discriminatory harassment is defined by its intentions instead of how it’s carried out.
How are your employees reporting harassment right now? If you don’t have an employee complaint form yet, you need one. Use ours: Employee Complaint Form.
In this case, the bully is harassing the victim because, at least in part, they’re a member of a protected class.
The more common and recognizable forms of discriminatory harassment are listed below.
- Racial Harassment
- Gender Harassment
- Religious Harassment
- Disability-Based Harassment
- Sexual Orientation-Based Harassment
- Age-Based Harassment
#3 – Physical Harassment
Physical harassment, also often called workplace violence, refers to a type of workplace harassment that involves physical attacks or threats. In extreme cases, physical harassment may be classified as assault.
Physical gestures such as playful shoving can blur the line between appropriate or not since it’s the person on the receiving end who decides whether the behavior makes them uncomfortable.
In order to more clearly define that line, physical harassment should be taken very seriously in the workplace and explained thoroughly in codes of conduct and policies.
#4. Power Harassment
Power harassment is a common form of workplace harassment that’s characterized by a power disparity between the harasser and the harassed.
The harasser exercises their power by bullying a victim who is lower on the office hierarchy. A study found that 73% of reporter harassers were in senior positions.
In many cases, the harasser is a supervisor or manager who victimizes their subordinates.
#5 – Cyberbullying
Employers are embracing new technology in order to appeal to younger employees and reap the benefits of a digitally connected world.
#6 – Psychological Harassment
Psychological harassment has a negative impact on a person’s psychological well-being.
Victims of psychological harassment often feel put down and belittled on a personal level, a professional level, or both.
The damage to a victim’s psychological well-being often creates a domino effect, impacting their physical health, social life, and work life.
#7 – Retaliation
Retaliation harassment is a subtle form of retaliation and an often-overlooked type of workplace harassment.
Retaliation harassment occurs when a person harasses someone else to get revenge and to prevent the victim from behaving in such a way again.
What Does Retaliation Harassment Look Like?
This type of harassment typically has three parts:
- Employee A files a complaint about Employee B.
- Employee B finds out about the complaint and who made it.
- Employee B harasses Employee A to get revenge and deter them from filing further complaints.
Employee B, in this case, would be harassing Employee A as retaliation.
#8 – Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply, harassment that is sexual in nature and generally includes unwanted sexual advances, conduct, or behavior.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of unlawful discrimination and is taken seriously by the courts.
Download this sexual harassment policy template if you need a document that holds employees accountable and prevents sexual harassment in your office.
Other types of harassment might take some time and increasing severity to create a hostile work environment for the victim, whereas sexual harassment typically brings about discomfort and negatively impacts the victims’ life immediately.
Examples of Sexual Harassment:
- Sharing sexual photos (pornography)
- Posting sexual posters
- Sexual comments, jokes, questions
- Inappropriate sexual touching
- Inappropriate sexual gestures
- Invading personal space in a sexual way
How Big is the Sexual Harassment Problem?
For many years, there have been whispers that sexual harassment runs rampant in the restaurant industry.
More recently, there’s been a steady flow of sexual harassment stories coming from Hollywood spawning a #MeToo campaign that highlights the prevalence of this behavior.
In the video below, listen as Virginia MacSuibhne explains how recent stories of sexual harassment actually aren’t about sex at all, but about power.
Do you need help training your employees on sexual harassment? Arrow Up offers a comprehensive online sexual harassment training course to create a safe and winning work environment.
#9 – Third-Party Harassment
Third-party harassment is a type of workplace harassment that’s perpetrated by a “third party” – someone from outside of the organization.
Instead of the perpetrator being a boss, supervisor, or colleague, he or she is a vendor, supplier, customer, or client of the company.
Who is the Victim of Third Party Harassment?
Victims are often young adults in “low-status” or “low-power” jobs (think: cashier or sales associate). Their position in the company, their lack of experience, and their reluctance to cause a scene make them ideal victims.
Employer Liability for Third Party Harassers
Because third party harassment doesn’t fit the typical narrative, it remains under-recognized and is often swept under the rug. Regardless of who the harasser is, an employer’s responsibility to take steps to stop the behavior is the same.
#10 – Verbal Harassment
Verbal harassment can be the result of personality conflicts in the workplace that have escalated beyond the casual eye roll or something more serious.
Unlike discriminatory types of harassment (such as sexual), verbal abuse is often not illegal. Instead, verbal harassment can be someone who’s consistently mean or unpleasant.
For this reason, a lot of verbal harassment can be particularly damaging since it goes unnoticed and unresolved.
Examples of Verbal Harassment
Obvious verbal harassment behaviors include things like threatening, yelling, insulting, or cursing at a victim in public or in private.
If this is aimed at someone in a protected class, it is unlawful.
Expert Tips On How to Stop Work Harassment
So, now we know what types of workplace harassment plague the office, the next step is how to stop workplace harassment.
Here are three ways.
1. Implement, Update, Revive Your Policy
Whatever verb is applicable to your policy situation, do it.
- If you don’t have a policy yet – create one (and here’s one: Code of Conduct template).
- If you do but it’s out of date and hasn’t been updated since the last century – update it (and here’s how: 18 of the Best Code of Conduct Examples).
- If you do but no one cares or knows it exists – dust it off and enforce it.
If there’s a policy, and it’s accurate and enforced, staff will have no reason not to abide by it. But as long as there’s no guiding light for conduct and misconduct, you’re asking for chaos.
2. Train Your Staff
Train your employees on what harassment is, how to recognize it and how to report it.
3. Implement, Update, Revive Your Internal Complaint System
Policy and training can only do so much.
To supplement policy, and to step in when it’s not enough, an internal complaint system (like i-Sight’s Ethics Hotline) can make employees feel safe and supported.
Unless you have a formal complaint system that acknowledges the victim’s rights to anonymity and security from retaliation, they probably won’t come forward.
Victims will fear the potential backlash, and the lack of support might be worse than the harassment they already face.
A Safe Environment Requires Creating Policies and Training on How to Stop Work Harassment
When you educate and enforce strict no tolerance harassment policies, you’ll create a safe environment for your employees to work. Your policies and training should educate and address all of the different types of workplace harassment.
Remember also to create a safe and discreet way for your employees to report any harassment type. By handling each occurrence discretely and firmly, your employees won’t fear retaliation or a hostile work environment.
Arrow Up offers a variety of online training courses that address safety and harassment for your employees. Arrow Up’s engaging training modules are approachable and effective at creating a safe and trusting environment.
Want to know more about Arrow Up’s Sexual Harassment training? Check out a demo sexual harassment training course.