As many as five million people experience some form of harassment in the workplace each year according to a number of recent surveys. Of those, only a fraction actually file complaints. Whether due to concerns over creating a tumultuous situation at work or fear of retaliation, the majority of harassment victims tend to suffer in silence.

Understanding the Different Types of Harassment

Harassment comes in a number of forms, including physical, psychological and sexual to name a few. Sexual harassment involves unwelcome advances and potentially lewd comments or conduct. Physical, on the other hand, entails pushing, punching, destruction of personal property and similar acts of violence. Psychological harassment consists of hateful, belittling remarks and other emotionally hurtful behavior.

Which Forms of Workplace Harassment Are the Most Problematic?

While sexual harassment may be publicized more often than other forms, reports indicate threats and physical violence are among the most commonly experienced in the workplace. From shoving, grabbing and tripping to somewhat passive actions like throwing items at a person, this type of harassment is equally widespread and detrimental. That being said, both forms can involve unwanted touching.

How to Stop Improper Touching at Work

Uninvited touching in any form may not be completely avoidable at work. Still, certain steps can help stop it in its tracks. Knowing what to do when faced with this issue is the key to protecting yourself.

1) Education

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as a number of other agencies, training is crucial to bringing an end to workplace harassment. Developing zero-tolerance policies also goes a long way toward fostering non-threatening work environments.

If you’re being harassed in any way, speak to a trusted member of management or someone in the human resources department to find out if harassment training is regularly carried out. Company-wide educational sessions, refresher courses or policy reminders may be in order.

2) Speak Up

Whether inappropriate sexual advances or painfully hardy slaps on the back are the issue, don’t hold your tongue until the situation grows out of control. Firmly and politely tell the offender he or she is out of line. Continue speaking up with each incident, and don’t be afraid to do so within earshot of others. This alone may be enough to discourage the guilty party.

3) Take the Matter to Management

If emphasizing the company’s harassment policies and procedures or voicing objections fails to generate positive results, going to someone in management may be the next best step. Should one manager ignore your pleas, take the matter over his or her head. Proceed through the chain of command until someone takes action. Be sure to file written reports rather than only verbal ones. This will be your paper trail should it become necessary.

It’s only fair to mention not all grievance filings turn out favorably for harassment victims. Based on a writeup from media outlet, The Conversation, more than 66 percent of those who file harassment complaints experience retaliation and almost as many lose their jobs as a result. Of course, there are laws in place against those forms of punishment.

In the event all else fails, seeking legal assistance may be in order. Though only a few of the harassment incidents taking place each year are actually reported, the EEOC points out most of those warrant legal action. Countless others most likely fall into the same category.

Bottom Line

Millions of people face numerous forms of harassment in the workplace. In some cases, these types of persecution even transcend the standard boundaries or occur in conjunction with one another. Far too many people needlessly endure them in silence, but laws and regulations are in place to protect against harassment as well as negative repercussions for reporting it.



How to Stop Someone from Touching You Inappropriately at Work

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