Career Advice - A Community Blog

Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

How to Handle Harassment at Work

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Nov 21, 2017 11:26 PM

You might think that bullies are only in high school and at lower levels. Children who were bullies grow up to become bullies in workplaces. As documented by the Workplace Bullying Institute, over one-third of the employees could be victims of bullying in their workplaces

Workplace bullies have the same traits as high school bullies. They make fun of a colleague, refuse to invite them to major meetings, allocate unachievable tasks, intimidate the coworkers, or spread rumors about an associate with the aim of tarnishing their reputation. Workplace harassment can root from religion or beliefs, race, disability, age, gender, and sexual orientation.

Victims of workplace harassment are depressed, have poor performance, and may suffer from health problems such as depression and insomnia. Harassment at work could lead to poor emotional intelligence. Workplace harassment does not affect the victims only. It ruins the entire working environment and affects every aspect of the business including creativity, morale, profitability, and production. These are some of the ways someone can deal with workplace harassment.

Set boundaries with the bully

Bullying has serious consequences. Thus, it should be dealt with to protect the victim's physical as well as mental health. The first step to combating workplace harassment is identifying the things you can control and those you cannot. After knowing what you can control, go ahead and set boundaries with the bully. Tell him/her that you do not like his/her behavior. Let the bully know that you will take further action if his/her behavior does not cease. Be firm while addressing a bully because if you get emotional he/she will use that against you.

Report the issue to your supervisor

If the person continues harassing you, take further action and report the issue to your supervisor. If he/she is your supervisor, take the issue to his/her supervisor. As you forward the issue, ensure you have physical proof of the dates, time and witnesses. Make your presentation as professional as possible. Present proofs and seek a resolution for issue.

Support colleagues being bullied

When you note that a certain colleague is being bullied, be there for that person to offer moral support. Listen to the struggles the coworker is going through and advice them accordingly. Talk to the victim and encourage him/her to report the issue to the management. While you could forward the issue to the management, it would be better if the victim advocates for himself/herself.

Stand up for the harassment victim

When other people are spreading rumors and gossip about the bullied coworkers, defend them and show those spreading the rumors that the victim is a good person. Additionally, you can walk away and avoid ruining other people's reputation.

Supervisors should deal with bullying

Most bullies target the most productive employees who are a threat to their stay in the office with an aim of removing them from the office and taking their spotlight. Supervisors should know that bullies attack the most productive and creative people who the bully deem as a threat to their personal career growth. As the supervisor, encourage people to work together and foster an atmosphere of teamwork. Be strict on the issue of gossiping at the workplace.

If in spite of your attempts there is still a worker harassing others, address the issue. Involve the human resource managers and follow the constitution of your office to deal with the person. Document the incidence in the employee's records should the person attempt the same thing again. Let the bully know the consequences if he/she continues harassing other workers.

In case you run a small enterprise and lack a human resource manager, it is your duty to handle the matter. Call the victim and the bully and talk to them separately. It is not advisable to hold a meeting with both as the victim will not open up in the presence of his/her oppressor. After addressing the issue, follow up and see if the bullying has stopped or if it is still ongoing.

Legal Action

If the harassment doesn't stop, the management should take legal actions against the bully. The firm's attorney will determine whether the offenses are actionable. Make sure the victim has sufficient proof. The victim should tell the truth and have evidence to back his/her words. As Attorney Robert May says, provide facts and the truth, and after that demand for justice.

In case you run a small enterprise and lack a human resource manager, it is your duty to handle the matter. Call the victim and the bully and talk to them separately. It is not advisable to hold a meeting with both of them as the victim will not open up in the presence of his/her oppressor. After addressing the issue, follow up and see if the bullying has stopped or if it is still ongoing.

Harassment in workplaces is a significant problem, and it should be dealt with in its earlier stages to evade long terms effect.

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