Workplace harassment continues to be a major issue within institutions of today’s current society. I will be answering several questions to further help the readers understanding of workplace harassment, they will be as follows:
- Why hasn’t harassment in the workplace changed by now due to current societal forces and expectations?
- What are institutions doing to combat and minimize harassment?
- What happens when a harassment issue occurs in an institution, do they ignore it or pursue the case?
- Why is harassment still a prevailing issue in our society?
I will be finding the answer to these questions by conducting research in multiple methods. First off, I will be conducting research using PSU materials, both professors and the library resources. Second, I will be conducting observational research within several institutions. Lastly, I will be using the course text and reliable online resources, by using google scholar, to supplement my first two methods of research.
Workplace harassment is a topic with many facets that need to be understood. It’s necessary to understand each facet of harassment and how they occur at the workplace. Once that is understood I will cover how institutions can develop procedures to prevent harassment and how they can handle cases that occur internally. I will then be looking at two institutions in the local Harrisburg area, providing some information on how local institutions react to and prevent harassment in their workplaces.
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In order to explore this topic thourghly, I will be conducting observational research as well as interviewing employees at institutions. I will be conducting observational research at my current workplace, I will be calling this workplace Institution A, this is to keep anonymity. I will be interviewing both employees and management at this institution, which is a local government. I will also be conducting further research at an institution in the construction field (Institution B) that is in the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania area. While providing my observations I will be going through each institutions policy and showing what they can do to help further prevent harassment from occurring.
Table of Contents
Physical and Power Harassment
Quid Pro Quo
Third Party Harassment
Every employee deserves a workplace where they feel safe and protected. Harassment, a common workplace occurrence, leads to a negative and harmful workplace for employees. If an employee feels unsafe or unsatisfied at their job an institution will experience losses in production and profits. It is necessary for every institution to understand what harassment is, how they can approach and prevent it, and figure out how to improve policies. The ethical issue that I see occurring everyday is that employers often turn a blind eye towards harassment, whether it be a larger or lesser issue. The issue is whether it is ethical for an institution to turn a so called “blind eye” upon harassment. Often the institution will ignore lesser harassment issues which in turn can lead to larger issues. To understand what harassment is, I will thoroughly explain the eleven separate facets of workplace harassment. I will then explain what institutions can do to lead to the prevention of harassment within the workplace. Observing is a key step in understanding harassment, therefore, I will share my observations on two different institutions. I will be sharing these institutions policies, my observations, and interviewing materials.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the United States Government, harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or genetic information. (USA.Gov, 2019) Harassment can become unlawful when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider hostile, intimidating, or abusive. Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) should not rise to the level of illegality, to do so the conduct must make the work environment hostile, intimidating, or abusive. Furthermore, workplace harassment can be broken down into eleven different categories, they are as follows; discriminatory, personal, physical, power, psychological, online, retaliation, sexual, quid pro quo, third party, and verbal. (Yahnke, 2019)
Discriminatory harassment can be further broken down into racial, gender, religious, disability, sexual orientation, and age-based harassment. (Yahnke, 2019)
Personal harassment is bullying in its most basic form. Some examples of this harassment include, offensive jokes, inappropriate comments, personal humiliation, and intimidation tactics. An individual is likely to have encountered this type of harassment even before entering an institution.
Physical and Power Harassment
Physical harassment involves physical threats or attacks, at the extreme it can end up being classified as assault. (Yahnke, 2019) Power harassment is characterized by a power disparity between the harasser and the harassed individual. (Yahnke, 2019) Power harassment often occurs between lower management and subordinates in institutions where employees feel there is a disparity of power.
Psychological harassment is damaging to a victim’s psychological wellbeing which often creates a domino effect such as impacting their physical health, social life, and work life. (Yahnke, 2019) Psychological harassment examples can include spreading rumors, opposing or challenging everything the victim says, denying the victim’s presence, and belittling the victim’s thoughts.
Online harassment, also characterized as cyberbullying, is now a major concern for employers as the workplace becomes more technologically centered. (Yahnke, 2019) Online harassment will continue to become a larger issue within institutions as they become more technologically developed in the future.
Retaliation harassment is often overlooked in the workplace by management. (Yahnke, 2019) It occurs when Employee 1 reports files a complaint about Employee 2, Employee 2 then finds out who made the complaint and then harasses Employee 1 to get revenge and deter them from making further complaints. Retaliation harassment can occur when employees are seeking revenge upon other employees.
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Sexual harassment is harassment that is sexual in nature and generally includes unwanted sexual advances, conduct or behavior. While other types of harassment may take awhile to take effect, sexual harassment is often immediately causing an impact. Some examples of sexual harassment are inappropriate touching, sexual gestures, sexual photos, and invasion of personal space. (Yahnke, 2019) Sexual Harassment is one of the most well-known types of harassment in the current society. This is due to recent major scandals occurring in all walks of life, ranging from small town schools, the movie industry, to the government. A major movement is the #MeToo campaign that highlighted the immense presence of this behavior in society.
Quid Pro Quo
Quid Pro Quo is directly translated to “this for that,” and is characterized as an exchange-based type of harassment. Quid Pro Quo harassment is most often directly linked to sexual harassment within institutions. Some examples of quid pro quo harassment are in exchange for sexually romantic activities an employee will receive a job offer, promotion, a raise or something similar. (Yahnke, 2019) This has recently become a hot topic in worldwide news with President Trump’s supposed quid pro quo with Ukraine. Although this was not sexual in nature it is still an example of a possible quid pro quo.
Third Party Harassment
Third party harassment is harassment that occurs within an institution from an outside party, someone that is not part of that institution. The harasser can be anyone, ranging from a customer, supplier, clientele, or a passerby. (Yahnke) Third-party harassment is often swept under the so-called rug by institutions, which in turn is a very unethical practice for the institution to participate in.
Verbal harassment often goes unnoticed and unpunished which leads to very damaging instances within institutions. (Yahnke, 2019) It can lead to more forms of harassment in the future after continued abuses, such as psychological and physical harassment. Verbal abuse unlike physical or discriminatory harassment is not illegal as it is seen to be as an individual who is consistently unpleasant and rude. Some examples that employees may encounter at institutions are things such as insults, cursing, yelling, and threatening behaviors.
The best way to eliminate or decrease harassment in the workplace is to take preventative measures. Although there is no perfect way to completely prevent harassment as it is human nature, there are ways to drastically decrease cases of harassment from occurring. Institutions can follow a set framework of nine steps. The first step is to clarify expectations with policy by defining harassment, taking a zero-tolerance approach, and outlining the consequences. Second, an institution should involve management and leadership so they can set the standard with their behavior. Third, they can reduce risk by taking precautions such as influencing positive behavior and refreshing workplace policies. Fourth, an institution should educate and implement training among management and subordinates. An institution must also discourage bad behavior, by not enabling bad behavior and punishing bad behavior when it does occur. An institution must also monitor the workplace, they should know warning signs of harassment and shouldn’t be afraid to intervene. While they monitor and discourage behavior an institution should also provide a complaint system that keeps anonymity for employees. An anonymous reporting system will make the staff feel more secure and able to report issues within the institution. Lastly, an institution should resolve all incidents of harassment and fully support the victims that come forward. (Yahnke, 2019) Harassment can be detrimental within a workforce and must be taken seriously by every institution. Institutions should have procedures to help combat and hopefully eliminate workplace harassment.
I conducted observational research in two institutions in the south-central Pennsylvania area over a period of one month to one year. I not only observed these institutions I also conducted interviews of both employees and management to better understand harassment issues in the workplace. The procedures that companies are supposed to follow will be included before the observations will be recorded.
The first institution that I decided to conduct observational research at was a place of employment, which I will keep anonymous. I will be calling this employer with anonymous name of Institution A. Institution A is located in Mechanicsburg and is part of a form of the local government and municipality. I have currently been working at this institution for a total of one year and six months. Over this period, I have observed some very concerning forms of harassment that have been continuously overlooked, contrary to what should have been done according to policy.
My observational period that I will be using for this portion lasted from October 15th to November 15th. Over the course of thirty days I witnessed numerous examples of harassment within this institution, in fact there are too many to even list. The most common type of harassment that is seen at this institution is verbal harassment, mostly small jabs aimed at breaking tension while still harming other employee’s psychological well-being. I witnessed this type of harassment occurring everyday at the institution, it even occurred in front of the Institution’s Assistant Township Manager. The most concerning thing is that it was completely ignored by him., allowing a hypothetical open door for employees to continue this behavior. The second type of harassment that I observed was personal harassment, which mostly included inappropriate jokes, intimidation from supervisors, and personal humiliation. These are just the two most prominent facets of harassment that I observed, during the thirty-day period I observed almost all eleven facets of harassment.
While Institution A does have issues with harassment, they take steps to prevent it. First off, they provide training days that are devoted entirely to providing knowledge on what harassment is, how to prevent it, and how to report it. They hang up informational posters throughout the buildings and hand out leaflets throughout the year. The issue does not lie within the management but within the subordinate employees. They make the conscious choice to ignore all training and provided information and continue in ways of harassment.
The second institution that I decided to conduct observational research at was a local construction company in the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania area. I will be keeping this employer anonymous as well and will be calling it Institution B. I interviewed a top-level manager to gain their perspective on this issue. This company focuses on maintaining their corporate social responsibility and maintaining higher than legal standards.
As stated earlier, it is nearly possible to prevent all cases of harassment within an institution, the same goes for this institution. The only observed harassment was personal harassment, from swearing, and crude jokes among subordinate employees. This type of harassment is joking or ribbing among employees but can lead to further issues when someone is adversely affected. Other types of harassment may occur at Institution B, but not at the rates that they occur at Institution A.
Institution B has set forth guidelines and company policy to help educate and prevent possible occurrences of harassment. When an employee starts at this company, they receive an employee manual which is then reviewed with the HR and Safety managers to thoroughly review the corporate handbook. Informational posters are hung up around the offices and jobsite to provide a constant reminder and reeducation for employees.
In conclusion, it is entirely unethical for an institution to turn a so called “blind eye” upon harassment in the workplace. Harassment occurs everywhere, in educational institutions, governmental agencies, and in public areas. While it can’t be entirely prevented, there are measures that society and institutions can take to dramatically lower the probability of it occurring. While harassment remains an issue in the workplace, management within institutions must make the ethical decision and pursue any case of harassment. Management can work towards preventing harassment through multiple avenues. The first major avenue is to provide training to all employees within the institution to provide comprehensive knowledge to prevent harassment from occurring. The second major avenue is to update and reintroduce an institutions policy to all stakeholders in the institution, including employees, suppliers, and management. The last avenue that management can use is by using an anonymous complaint and reporting system that allows for a feeling of safety and security for all reporters. Forms of harassment are often tied together, it can start out with simple verbal harassment and lead into a very harmful form of harassment such as sexual harassment.
Corporate Handbook of Institution B – Section
USA.Gov. "Harassment." Harassment. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2019. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm.
Yahnke, Katie. "11 Types of Workplace Harassment (and How to Stop Them): I-Sight." I-Sight. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2019. https://i-sight.com/resources/11-types-of-workplace-harassment-and-how-to-stop-them/.
Yahnke, Katie. "The 2019 Guide to Workplace Sexual Harassment [INFOGRAPHIC]." I-Sight. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2019. https://i-sight.com/resources/guide-to-workplace-sexual-harassment-infographic/
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