Workplace harassment and office bullying are unfortunately common incidents these days. It refers to any repeated, intentional behaviour directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance. It can come from colleagues, supervisors, or management, and is a real problem for workers at all levels. It’s no joke. By learning to recognize and address workplace bullying behaviour, you can help to create a healthier, more productive environment for yourself and your colleagues.
What women can do
- Communicate your disapproval – If you can avoid the colleague who makes you uncomfortable, do so. If you have to work in close proximity to him, avoid being alone with him and tell him to stop his specific behaviour. If the person has sent you a joke through an email or SMS, reply through email or SMS when asking him to stop.
- Keep a record – If your colleague isn’t getting the message, prepare to report him. Gather evidence to substantiate your claims. ‘Note down the date, time and details of each incident. Save any emails or text messages that contain inappropriate language. Try to use your mobile phone recorder to discreetly record his remarks.
- Find a friend to share this information – Share the situation with a colleague you trust in the office. She may be able to keep a watchful eye on the situation. But be picky about who you share this information with, and ensure that this person is trustworthy. A senior colleague or mentor who carries more weight in the organisation would be ideal.
- Formal complaint – If the above doesn’t work, make a formal complaint to senior members of the organisation, with whatever evidence or notes you have. Make the complaint in writing and keep a copy. Remember an oral complaint can be hushed up. Often women don’t report sexual harassment for fear they might lose their jobs, but unless you are willing to take action, your problem will persist.
- Contact EEOC – If your complaint does not result in your supervisor or senior manager taking action, you can file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigates sexual harassment incidents in the workplace. Inform the EEOC of your employer’s name, the name of the offender and the details surrounding the incidents.
- File a lawsuit – After you file a complaint with the EEOC, you can possibly file a lawsuit. You can seek monetary damages, or try to get your job back if your employer fired you due to the incidents. If you plan to file a lawsuit, you should seek legal representation from an attorney who handles sexual harassment cases.