Workplace abuse, whether sexual or not, happens far often than most people think. Being harassed at work is reported frequently today. In a survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute published in 2014, 1 in 4 Americans say that they have encountered bullying at some point in their careers. You may not know it, but workplace harassment could be happening in your office, or worse, it could be happening to you.

Here are 3 common signs to spot.

You feel threatened, humiliated or intimidated.

Words, actions and gestures that make you feel anxious, threatened or humiliated, especially when done repetitively with the intention to create these feelings, are a form of harassment. These include yelling and public ridicule, overtly sexual and suggestive advances, and even spreading of office gossip. These acts could produce feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and dread about going to work or facing office colleagues. In some cases, workplace harassment can even lead to severe depression.

Your work is undermined.

You are harassed at work when a co-worker changes schedules and jeopardizes an important project or your own schedule, or your boss fails to tell you about an important meeting that makes you look bad in front of clients. You may be ordered to perform a task that the bully knows you have no training for or one which is not a part of your job description. These actions, when done repetitively with the intention to undermine your work performance, constitutes bullying, which amounts to being harassed at work.

You are intentionally isolated.

The office is a social setting, so one of the tactics a bully uses is to single you out and make you feel socially isolated. This includes excluding you from office meetings, arranging after-work drinks with the rest of the gang without your knowledge, abruptly changing conversation topics when you enter the room, or creating a you-against-them atmosphere. While this may look harmless from the outside, prolonged periods spent in a workplace with this kind of culture can take an emotional toll on the person excluded.

What You Can Do

If you think that you or someone you know is a victim of workplace harassment, you can take action to ensure that this type of behavior does not go unnoticed. In some cases, simply confronting the bully and showing him or her that you are willing to stand your ground can be enough to put a stop to the behavior. However, if this does not work, share your thoughts with a trusted co-worker so that another person in the office is also aware of the problem. Take notes, photos, or videos of any behavior that can support your claim. Once you have gathered enough evidence, file a formal report to ensure that acts like these do not stay swept under the corporate rug.  

Everyone has the right to a workplace that is free from abuse of any kind, and you can protect this right by knowing what the problem is and taking a stand. Take note of these signs and call the behavior out when needed. By doing so, you can help kill the culture of workplace harassment and ensure that you and your co-workers are protected from bullying and harassment in the office.

These blogs are meant purely for educational purposes. They contain only general information about legal matters. They are not legal advice, and should not be treated as such. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult with an attorney.