What Should You Do When You’re Being Harassed at Work?

Written by: Micah Norris
Guest Contributor

Picture of a professional woman in front of an office building. Article discusses how women should deal with harassment at work.

The average man who works full-time brings in $61,417 per year, but the average full-time female worker only brings in $50,982. In addition to battling the wage gap, approximately 1 out of every 4 women experience some form of workplace harassment – and many of these incidents are never reported. If you’re dealing with workplace harassment, whether minor or severe, you might be unsure how to cope. Each situation requires a unique approach, but here are some general tips presented by eCareerCoaching.com that may benefit any professional woman that becomes a victim of harassment at work. 

Document Each Incident when you are harassed

Even if you’ve decided not to report the harassment at the moment, you might decide to take a different approach in the future. For that reason, it’s extremely important that you document each incident while it’s fresh in your memory. You may find it helpful to document the abuse in two different places: on a calendar or in a planner, and in a notebook or digital Word document. 

On your calendar, use brief language or even just initials—for example, “harassment happened today” could be written as “HHT”—to show that an incident occurred. This helps create a visible representation that shows a pattern of how often incidents happen at your job. Describe each incident in detail when you jot it down in your notebook, but stick to the facts. Don’t explain how you feel or add personal insults like “My rude, annoying co-worker” to any of the entries. Here’s an example of something you could add to your harassment journal:

June 19, 2021

11:13 a.m. 

Kevin Smith stated that my pregnancy was going to ruin my career. He said, “You should just have an abortion if you want a future here” and laughed. Ken Johnson overheard this conversation and rolled his eyes at Kevin Smith, but he did not verbally respond. I walked away without responding, and Kevin Smith yelled, “You’re gonna have an ugly baby!” while laughing.

The entry above describes the incident without incorporating personal opinions. This helps a judge or anti-discrimination agency understand the issues you faced if you decide to inform someone about what’s going on at your job.

Control Your Reactions

When someone harasses you, it can be difficult to react calmly or ignore the bully completely. Unfortunately, reacting in anger may jeopardize your employment and make it difficult for supervisors to believe that you’re an innocent victim in this situation. If you choose not to ignore the bully’s inappropriate actions, consider using the same response each time an incident occurs. Here are some examples of things you can say to a bully:

  • “Please do not speak to me like that. I don’t feel it’s appropriate.”
  • “Do not place your hands on me. It makes me uncomfortable.”
  • “Please refrain from asking sexual questions about my personal life. I am happy to discuss any work-related projects you have questions about.”

Depending on the situation, you may also want to threaten to report your coworker to a supervisor. However, this may cause the situation to escalate because some bullies simply enjoy getting a reaction out of their targets. It’s important to remember that should you ever fear for your physical safety, contact the authorities immediately.

Utilize Vacation Time

Harassment that continues for an extended period of time can make you dread coming to your place of employment. You may feel physically and emotionally drained. Nobody should have to work under these conditions, so consider taking some time off from work to develop a plan of action and restore your emotional health.

If you speak with a mental health professional, avoid your company’s EAP because the information you share might not be confidential. It’s important that you only discuss the incidents with a trusted source until you decide how to handle workplace harassment. Although this may seem counterintuitive, avoid telling coworkers as well, since this can be considered gossip or even slander if the incidents haven’t been proven.

As you develop your plan of action, decide whether you want to speak with a supervisor. If the harassment is coming from your boss, then you might want to skip this step and speak with someone from the human resources department instead. If that doesn’t go well or you feel it won’t help your situation, you may want to meet with a lawyer to decide how to proceed. Speaking to someone from a government agency, such as the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, may also help.

Break Free

If you decide that you can’t stay at your current job due to the ongoing harassment, it is time to seek a new employer. Use a free resume builder to update your resume. This will help you stand out in a crowded field of candidates.

Another solution many women pursue is to start their own venture. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, be sure to cover your business essentials first: create a practical budget, develop a sound business plan, and register your business with your state. You might decide on a sole proprietorship for simplicity’s sake, or, in the interest of protecting personal assets, an LLC. Just look up how to form an LLC online so you understand the ins and outs related to establishing the latter.

You have the legal right to work in a healthy environment free of harassment. If workplace harassment is affecting your career, try the steps above to alleviate the situation.

Remember, you deserve better!

This article is brought to you by eCareerCoaching.com, where we specialize in business resumes and career progression coaching. For more information about our services, please visit us today!

#careercoaching #resumewriting #resumes #gethired #legal

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