Workplace violence/abuse





An Overview

  • Harassing, discriminating and bullying a person at the workplace has been a norm for the longest time now.
  • Employee harassment is in fact, common in every line of work.
  • This kind of harassing includes making fun of your colleagues, making sexual advances, making vulgar comments, etc., in short, creating a hostile work atmosphere.
  • Many organisations have policies that forbid workplace abuse, but it takes place nevertheless.
  • Rude comments, constant leg-pulling, excessive teasing, and over-authoritative behavior also come under abuse.
  • If you are being worked more than what your job profile states and not being suitably appreciated for the same, or if you are being troubled excessively for the minutest of mistakes in your work, it is a form of abuse too.
  • There are several acts in different organisations that help protect employee rights. If the abuse goes overboard, you need to approach the authorities and take action.

Definition of workplace violence/abuse

Workplace violence or abuse is a behaviour that causes workers psychological or emotional or physical harm. Harassment, discrimination, bullying and violence are forms of workplace abuse. These behaviours aren’t always distinguished from one another because they frequently overlap. Harassment can be discriminatory, bullying can be a form of harassment, and any of these behaviours can lead to workplace violence.

Common types of workplace violence/abuse

  • Workplace Sexual Harassment
  • Workplace Verbal Abuse
  • Workplace Physical Abuse
  • Workplace Sex Orientation harassment
  • Workplace Age Harassment
  • Workplace Disability Abuse
  • Workplace Religion and Racial Abuse
  • Workplace Stalking



Workplace Sexual Harassment

  • This comprises inappropriate sexual behavior.
  • It includes sexual advances or sexual favors.
  • Your harasser may come to help you at your desk, and inadvertently rub his hands on your shoulders.
  • Under the pretext of helping you use your computer, he may exhibit inappropriate conduct.
  • Some people ask for sexual favors, i.e., they may offer you a promotion if you get physically intimate with them, or if they know something about you that could destroy your career, they may blackmail you regarding the same and ask you for a sexual favor.
    • Even trying to have a vulgar, sexual conversation and making a person uncomfortable comes under this.


Workplace Verbal Abuse

  • There are many types of verbal harassment in the workplace.
  • This includes unnecessary shouting, rude behavior, using swear words, etc.
    • Demeaning the employee’s self-esteem, joking in public about his qualifications, job, responsibilities, etc., come under this as well.


Workplace Physical Abuse

  • This includes violence and harassment in the workplace.
  • It is impossible to even believe that this kind of behavior takes place in a modern society.
  • This includes people who hit other employees, slap them, push them, etc., in other words, all sorts of violent activities that a civilized person would not even think of.
  • This kind of manhandling should be reported immediately.
  • There have even been cases wherein a grudging employee has severely beaten up the other.

Workplace Sex Orientation harassment

  • When discrimination is made on the basis of gender, it falls under this category.
  • Here, your seniors/colleagues might ill-treat you or behave rudely or abuse you because you are a male/female.
  • They may even judge you or pass unnecessary comments.
  • This kind of behavior is mostly seen with extreme chauvinists or feminists.

Workplace Age Harassment

  • This trend is seen in many companies.
  • Some staff are not given proper responsibility because they are young, even if they are well up to handling the same.
  • Also, older staff, those who have spent a lot of years with the company are ill-treated or not given the due respect because of their age.

Workplace Disability Abuse

  • Do you remember one of the lines of the famous fictional character, Nearly Headless Nick from the international legend ‘Harry Potter’? If you remember right, he says, “Once again, you show all the sensitivity of a blunt ax.”.
  • Well, you might confront people like this at your workplace, who make fun of people’s disabilities.

As insensitive and inhuman as it sounds, it is unfortunately true.

  • People who have certain impairments, but still work in order to move on and rebuild a new life for themselves, are the victims of this abuse.
  • The harassers pass rude comments about their disabilities, ill-treat and insult them in front of everybody, or make them feel inferior so that they can get rid of their insecurities.
  • This is sheer cruelty and deserves a harsh punishment, because the harassers are literally playing with someone’s life.

Workplace Religion and Racial Abuse

  • This is a rather common kind, yet a heinous form of abuse.
  • For preserving a harmonious work environment, there should be no discrimination at work on the basis of anything.
  • This form of abuse includes people passing rude comments on other people’s race, religion, caste, language, heritage, political beliefs, religious preference, etc.
  • Remember that if a person lives in a democracy, he has the complete right to live the way he wants, his race or religion does not matter.
  • What’s more, abuse on these grounds in not only absurd, but also depicts the dinosaurtype mentality of the harasser.
  • A person could be from any part of the world, following whatever customs, he may be supporting any political party or following any religious faith. You have no right to intervene and judge him, as long he delivers the proper output at work.
  • This kind of abuse has led many people to commit suicide, some suffer silently, and in worst cases, this kind of behavior leads to riots and bloodshed.

Workplace Personal Bullying

  • This is a form of verbal abuse, where the harasser bullies the other person in whatever way possible.
  • Some examples of workplace harassment and bullying include the harasser trying to exercise unnecessary authority on you, make you do things you do not want to, pass hurtful remarks, or delegating pointless tasks at work, etc.
  • He could also get personal and pass remarks on your private life, leak confidential information, trouble you unnecessarily, exclude you from participating in social activities at office, mix your personal and professional life, and create a difficult work schedule for you.

Workplace Stalking

  • It is one of the most dangerous forms of harassment.
  • If there is someone in the office who has a romantic interest in you and you refuse him (for whatever reasons), he could start stalking you.
  • He may stalk you online, through the social networking sites, or send you irritating messages and tweets.
  • He may stalk you over the phone, give you blank calls, missed calls, threaten you, etc.
  • He may follow you outside the office, to your house, to wherever you go within the office building, until you tire of him and agree to meet his demands.


However, don’t ever succumb to this behavior. File a complaint immediately, or if the stalker is obsessive, your life could be at stake.

  • Neither will you be able to concentrate on your work, nor will you have a peaceful personal life.


  • This kind of abuse is called so because it targets the person’s psyche.
  • For that matter, with every kind of abuse, a person is psychologically affected.
  • But, when a person is repeatedly harassed by abusive language, harsh words, zero appreciation, shoving, grabbing, giving impossible targets, little duration, etc., it severely affects his state of mind.
  • So much that he may be terrified to come to the office, he may have a nervous breakdown, lose his self-confidence, start stuttering; he may even decide to end his life.
  • Before the situation gets out of hand, it is essential to file a complaint and get the harasser punished.

Effects of workplace violence/abuse

  • The effects of workplace violence/abuse can be traumatic and long-lasting.
  • Repeated abuse may lead to depression, sleep disruption, headaches and psychological, emotional, physical, social and workplace performance problems.
  • Abused workers may withdraw or seem fearful of communicating with others.
  • They may tend to skip work more frequently and the quality of their work suffers, creating a variety of problems for the victim’s boss and company.
  • What to Do?                       
  • Normally, people silently put up with the abuse and bullying at work for fear of losing their jobs or being branded as a rumor-monger.
  • However, if you are a victim of the same, please do not stay quiet about it.
  • You, as a legal employee, have all the rights to stay happy at your workplace. If you are being denied the respect you deserve, you need to lash out at whoever is responsible.
  • Of course, it is easier said than done, but the fact is, if you fail to stand up for yourself, you will only be inviting more torture.
  • If you let people walk all over you, you are always going to be treated as a doormat. So, whoever is abusing you (your boss, colleague, or senior manager), put up a brave fight and let them know that you will not tolerate any harassment at work.
  • While you may fear that you would lose your job, you also need to fight for your rights and dignity. Also, excess bullying might ultimately lead you to hate your job, and you may quit anyway.
  • If you are being sexually harassed, you must report to the management for protection and support. Follow the policy if it is there.
  • You can also look through your company’s employee handbook and have a look at the policies. If there are harassment policies, file a complaint immediately
  • The Lesotho Law forbids anyone to make fun of people who have disabilities.
  • Apart from going into the legalities, you need to remain unafraid and stand up for yourself.


  • Harassing an employee is a legal crime.
  • If you are an employee and are being harassed, please raise your voice against the injustice of the act.
  • If you are an employer, please see to it that your employees are not being bullied or abused.
  • If you do not create a favorable work environment, how in the world can you expect quality output?
  • If your employee is being harassed by his colleague/friend/other staff (even you for that matter, do support the employee, take appropriate action, and see to it that the offenders are punished.
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