Dealing With Harassment at Work

1 minute read | 10 January 2022

Though we wish it wasn’t the case, harassment and bullying at work still happens. It could happen to you, or any of your loved ones. In fact, a quarter of UK employees say they have been bullied at work. We’re going to tell you a little about what harassment is and what you can do if you are being harassed at work.

If you are being bullied or are receiving unwanted behaviours relating to any of the following things, this constitutes harassment.

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity

Officially, harassment is behaviour that either violates a person’s dignity (intended or not) or creates a hostile environment for that person (intended or not). It doesn’t have to be as obvious or dramatic as physical violence or offensive slurs. Harassment can be directed verbally, in writing or through physical behaviour, and can be repeated behaviours or a serious one-off incident.

What it all boils down to is this: is someone else’s behaviour making you uncomfortable or upset? If the answer is yes, then there are things that can be done. Employees of all kinds have the right to protection from harassment from work. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been there two weeks, if you are an apprentice, an intern, or a casual worker (and this includes zero-hour workers too), you don’t have to put up with unwanted behaviour at work.

If you are being harassed or bullied at work, you might be feeling disrespected, fearful, humiliated, offended or threatened. All of these are feelings that have no place at work. You aren’t foolish or ‘too sensitive’ for feeling them. And you don’t have to let this behaviour continue. Every individual deserves to feel safe, comfortable and happy at work, regardless of their job role or personal background.

If you are being harassed at work, communication is key. For many, the very idea of telling someone what is happening to us is the hardest part. This is because we often fear we won’t be taken seriously, or that the blame will be shifted onto us. But while sharing our experiences of harassment with a colleague can be daunting, it’s vital for putting an end to your harassment.

The best first step to take is to talk to a senior member of staff. This could be your manager, the HR department, or even a trade union representative. With something as sensitive as workplace harassment, it’s important that you confide in someone you trust and that you feel comfortable talking to. So, take time to consider who you are going to approach about the issue. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable speaking to a friend at work first, so that they can give you the confidence to take it further. That person might be able to support you as you speak to someone with more authority and ability to resolve the issue. If you are being harassed or bullied at work and don’t feel comfortable talking to a colleague yet, you can also call the ACAS helpline for advice (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). You can to consult and contact the government at GOV.UK

Sometimes standing up for ourselves at work can be tough. With that in mind, it’s worth knowing that if the victim of harassment doesn’t report the behaviour or ask the perpetrator to stop, this doesn’t mean that the behaviour ceases to be harassment. In fact, if you see someone else being harassed or bullied in the workplace, you can report it yourself, even if the victim doesn’t come forward themselves.

Going to work isn’t about burning out and putting on a brave face while we suffer. Make sure you prioritise your own mental health and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like you need it. Going through harassment at work might make you feel intimidated, humiliated or frightened and these are hard emotions to navigate, so please talk to someone. Whether you speak to a friend, a family member or a professional, make sure you take steps to get the help you need.

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