Harassment is the misuse of power, ability or position to persistently criticise and condemn; to humiliate and undermine an individual, damaging their confidence and self esteem.
If you feel you are being harassed or bullied at work, it is your employer’s duty to take this seriously, investigate any complaint and take action to protect staff from such occurrences. It is not unusual for people who feel they are being harassed to be cautious before making a complaint, because they are not sure what will happen as a result.
There are three options that can be used when you think you are being harassed:
- Take no immediate action, but collect evidence for future action if it does not change.
- Attempt to change the situation in an informal way.
- Make a formal complaint.
If you decide to take the first option, do not feel helpless, there are things you can do:
- Even if you do not feel able to use the informal route or formal route, you can regain some control. Make a note of harassing behaviour.
- Log dates, times, locations and direct or indirect witnesses;
- Keep copies of any documents that relate to the harassment;
- Find out if anyone else has experienced similar problems.
You may find that if you do this you have a clear case that you can then take to the appropriate person.
Draw up some specific examples of the unacceptable behaviour: “Last week you made a personal comment about my appearance that I found embarrassing. “ , “On Monday of this week you shouted at me in front of a customer.”
Draw up a statement of what would be acceptable behaviour: “We should have a professional relationship and you should not make personal comments.” , “If you have a complaint about my behavior please raise it with me calmly and in private.” These must be reasonable so that any rejection is unreasonable.
Do not expect an admission of guilt and do not expect an apology, but look ahead to establishing a reasonable working relationship. If such behaviour is repeated this can then clearly be seen as harassment.
To make a formal complaint you may wish to get the support of a trade union or staff representative. Look at your employer’s grievance procedures and understand what would be required of you. Talk it through with someone in confidence before taking the decision to proceed.
Like everything else the earlier you do something about it the easier it will be to resolve.