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What is Workplace Harassment ?

Workplace harassment is a prevalent issue faced by employees across various industries. With more companies prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), it has become imperative to understand what constitutes harassment and how to address it. 

Workplace harassment refers to any unwanted or unwelcome behavior that creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive working environment.  

These actions can be verbal, physical, or visual and can include derogatory comments, insults, jokes, gestures, or physical contact.  

Harassment can happen between colleagues, from a manager to an employee, or from an employee to a customer or vendor. It can also occur through technology, such as emails or social media. 


Types of Workplace Harassment 

There are several types of workplace harassment that employees usually have to face: 


1. Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is perhaps the most common form of workplace harassment, and it involves any unwelcome comments, jokes, or gestures of a sexual or discriminatory nature. This can include anything from inappropriate jokes to threats of violence.  

Verbal harassment can cause emotional distress, and it can create a hostile work environment for the victim. To prevent verbal harassment, DEI teams should create a clear policy and communicate it to employees to ensure that everyone understands what inappropriate behavior is.


2. Physical Harassment

Physical harassment involves unwanted touching, hugging, kissing, or other physical contact. This type of harassment can make the victim feel violated, and it can be difficult to prove.  

It is important for organizations to create an environment in which employees feel comfortable reporting physical harassment, and to establish clear consequences for those who engage in such behavior. 


3. Cyberbullying 

Cyberbullying is a form of harassment that occurs online, and it can be just as harmful as in-person harassment.  

This includes sending threatening or abusive messages, sharing personal information about the victim online, or creating fake profiles to harass the victim.  

To prevent cyberbullying, DEI teams should establish clear guidelines for online behavior and educate employees about the importance of respecting others' privacy online. 


4. Discrimination 

Discrimination is another common form of workplace harassment. This occurs when an employee is treated unfairly based on their age, gender, race, religion, or other protected characteristics. 

Discrimination can include not being given opportunities for advancement, being excluded from important meetings or events, or being subject to negative comments or behavior from colleagues.  

DEI teams can prevent discrimination by ensuring that policies and procedures are in place to prevent it, and by promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion. 


5. Retaliation

Retaliation is a form of harassment that occurs when an employee is punished or treated negatively for reporting harassment in the workplace.  

This can create a culture of silence and prevent victims from coming forward. It is important for DEI teams to create a culture in which employees feel comfortable reporting harassment without fear of retaliation. 


How to Mitigate Workplace Harassment 

As a DEI team member, it is essential to understand how to identify and mitigate harassment in the workplace. Here are some steps that you can take: 


Create a Workplace Culture of Respect 

The first step in preventing workplace harassment is to create a culture of respect. Organizations should have clear policies on harassment and ensure that every employee is aware of them.  

Leaders should also be role models and set the tone for the organization. Creating a culture of respect means that employees feel valued and supported, and discrimination or harassment will not be tolerated. 


Provide Harassment Prevention Training 

Training is an essential tool in preventing harassment in the workplace. It is essential to provide regular training to all employees, including new hires and managers, on recognizing, reporting, and preventing harassment.  

The training should include information about the types of behavior that are not acceptable, how to handle a complaint, and the consequences of harassment. 


Establish an Anonymous Reporting System 

Many employees do not report incidents of harassment, fearing retaliation or that they will not be taken seriously.  

Establishing an anonymous reporting system can help employees report incidents of harassment and provide a safe space to share their experiences.  

It is important to communicate to employees that their reports will be taken seriously, and investigations will be conducted discreetly. 


Conduct Regular Workplace Audits 

Audits are essential to identify potential areas of harassment in the workplace. These audits can be in the form of surveys, interviews, or focus groups.  

The purpose of the audit is to identify the prevalence of harassment and gaps in the organization's policies and procedures for addressing potential incidents. 


Take Swift and Appropriate Action 

If an incident of harassment is reported, it is essential to take swift and appropriate action. Failure to take action may result in the harassment continuing, which can cause further harm to the victim and bad publicity for the organization.  

It is important to investigate the incident thoroughly, and the person found responsible must face the consequences of their behavior. 



Use inclusio to Spread Awareness About Workplace Harassment 

inclusio is a science-based diversity and inclusion platform that’s designed to help improve an organisation’s culture.  

The platform gives leaders insights into their people, tracking data around different D&I initiatives, so companies can better analyse company culture and take informed steps.