Harassment in the workplace can take many forms. It can cause serious psychological damage to the victim, can create a bad atmosphere amongst other staff and lower staff morale and, crucially, it’s illegal.
Reasons for it OccurringThere can be many reasons why harassment at work occurs. It can arise when there is a simple clash of personalities or where the perpetrator gets some kind of perverse pleasure over wielding his power and using his position or authority to either denigrate another person just for their own pleasure or to coerce the victim into taking some kind of action that he/she does not wish to take. There could be many other reasons why a person is harassed yet, in many cases, it can thrive and fester within an organisation simply because the behaviour is not challenged.
Sometimes the victim and other members of the workforce feel too scared to stand up to the perpetrator. This is even truer if it’s their employer or immediate line manager themselves doing the harassing as they may be either worried about being harassed themselves or live in fear of losing their job, were they to make a stand. On the other hand, harassment can sometimes go unnoticed as the perpetrator often uses very devious tactics to bully or harass the victim out of sight of the rest of the staff. This is extremely worrying given that a victim may be very reluctant to seek advice or take any legal action because they might have no witnesses to support them whereby nothing can be proven.
Why Employers Should be ConcernedIf the boss of a company wants his business to thrive, he needs to have a well motivated and happy workforce full of competent people who enjoy coming to work each day, are satisfied with their jobs, have a lot of skills and personal qualities to offer and who are then likely to want to stay with the company for a long time.
Low staff morale due to harassment of a particular person or group of people within a company is far more likely to result in lower productivity, a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude, more staff absenteeism and a higher level of staff turnover. This in turn leads the boss to have to find additional money for recruitment and probably training as well as, perhaps, losing a very valuable member of the workforce.
Therefore, if the boss wants the company to succeed, they should make it clear that harassment will not be tolerated and that people who go against policies regarding this matter will, at best be severely reprimanded with both verbal and written warnings which could ultimately result in the perpetrator being fired and, at worst, legal action being taken against them, in accordance with the relevant legislation on harassment.
How can Harassment be Eradicated?In addition to the policy guidelines on harassment which is set out in any company literature or handbook which all employees should be given before they start employment, some companies might wish to hold small group workshops where, occupational health specialists and even psychologists can be invited in to speak to members of staff about the effects of harassment on the victim which could include role playing exercises which would demonstrate just how much misery and harm is inflicted upon the victim as a result of harassment. They should also pay particular attention to sexual harassment and harassment on the basis of race and disability as these are all not only good grounds for immediate dismissal but the perpetrator could end up being prosecuted.
Proper procedures and a guarantee of confidentiality should be emphasised so that a victim feels comfortable about exposing any perceived instances of harassment to a line manager, to the employer themselves or to a union representative if they have one. If all else fails, the victim should seek advice externally and it helps to keep all records of dates, times and what took place which will be useful if it’s recommended that you have a case to take to a tribunal.