Harassment 101 – part I. What is harassment at work

From any angle you look at it harassment is a deeply inappropriate behaviour. Cambridge dictionary for business defines it as illegal behaviour towards a person that causes mental or emotional suffering, which includes repeated unwanted contacts without a reasonable purpose, insults, threats, touching, or offensive language. The legal definition of harassment differs from one country to another. This post is about moral or mental harassment at work. Sexual harassment will be subject to another post.
Harassment happens in cycles. The initial bullying behaviour of the boss is followed by a victim-type reaction of the person harassed which in turn feeds into the mind of the aggressor who then initiates another episode of harassment.

Typical harassment is humiliating or degrading a person, criticising, intimidating, threatening, sabotaging the harassed, spreading negative rumors with the intention to harm the harassed.

A usual victim-type reaction to these behaviours is feeling and showing that you are afraid and/or intimidated, getting depressed, getting nervous about any encounter with the harasser, avoiding him as much as possible, making more and more mistakes and shutting yourself in. You do not feel like participating in social activities at work anymore, you feel like crying all the time or you burst into tears suddenly in front of people. In terms of body language, you adopt a closed posture most of the times with your arms and legs crossed, your shoulders brought forward, you avoid eye contact, you keep your  your head down and sometimes have a slow walk. You do not dress up anymore. You can exhibit stuttering, blushing, trembling body or voice, sweating more than usual, dry mouth or dry eyes.

More importantly, you start having health problems like palpitations, high blood pressure, constant headaches and stiffness in your body. You might not be able to sleep a full night.

As explained in a previous post, when you are faced with harassment you have three options or any combination of these: leave, stay and make him/her stop and bring him/her to justice. If you cannot or will not leave your job then you need to make him stop harassing you.

To be continued…

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