How to Recognize The Report

Workplace harassment comes in many forms. It can happen online or in person, and be verbal, physical or sexual in nature.

Regardless of its incarnation, abusive behavior creates a toxic work environment, but many workers feel uncomfortable reporting harassment to their bosses or HR managers.

“If you are being harassed or think you may be but are too scared to go forward, educating yourself on the facts is a great way to gain confidence to stand up for yourself,” said Becca Garvin, executive HR recruiter at Find Great People International. “The sooner you act on it, the easier it will be to put an end to it.”

Broaching the subject at work is understandably nerve-wracking. This nervousness is a normal feeling, said Brian McClusky, human resources director at InkHouse PR.

“Nervousness is probably the main reason employees don’t bring these issues forward,” he told Business News Daily. “If they are not comfortable addressing the issue with their harasser [there are some instances when it may not be safe to do so], HR is a neutral, safe, third-party resource.

“Employees should be reassured that their issue will be taken seriously, addressed quickly and thoroughly, and with as much discretion as possible,” he added.

Identifying harassment

Understanding what is happening to you may help when approaching the issue. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.

Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker or a nonemployee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

“First and foremost, know that if you are being harassed at work, it’s illegal and you are protected by law. Not only are you protected from the person(s) harassing you, [but] you are also protected from your employer failing to protect you,” Garvin said. “If you know someone who is being harassed at work, you cannot lose your job by reporting it yourself.”

Online harassment

Harassment online can include hateful speech in emails, instant messages, tweets or other social platforms. It can range from name-calling to threatening behavior.

“People tend to be braver, which unfortunately includes being meaner, behind a screen,” Garvin said. “The good news about online harassment: It is documentable and easily proved. This helps so much with reporting and proving it.”

To monitor the situation, Garvin suggested taking screenshots, saving emails on your personal computer and keeping a file of everything that makes you uncomfortable.