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What is workplace harassment and how to avoid it?

Almost 40% of women all over the world say that they were victims of workplace harassment, according to a The United Nations’ paper.

Workplace harassment, also known by the term “mobbing”, is a type of unjustified violence that is usually exercised in the workplace.

This violence is expressed through continuous actions such as insults, humiliations, isolation, belittling, application of unnecessary disciplinary measures, abusive schedules, denial of permits or vacations on appropriate dates, dissemination of rumors, physical harassment or even sexual assaults.

Every process of this type aims to bring down and emotionally consume the victim.

The risk increases when we talk about when the job means going to other people’s houses or a working woman is an immigrant.

Since 2020 that was a pandemic time the level of harassment against women has grown dramatically and because of that The United States Women had to work harder to fight against such cases.

One of the measures to combat workplace harassment was a mutual job of the International Labour Organization and The United Nations Women was making a Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment and trying to explain the importance of ratifying it in all of the countries.

In Latin America only 3 countries have already done it: Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador. So it’s a really long process that will take a significant amount of time to be sure that women are protected in the work environment.

Mobbing or workplace harassment can cause serious psychological and physical problems in people who suffer from it. Unfortunately, workplace harassment practices are still very frequent and can sometimes lead to fatal outcomes.

For sure, this Convention is really important but what can companies do now to fight workplace harassment?

First, we have to understand that not every conflict at work is harassment.

To qualify a conflict as harassment we need to find these conditions:

  1. The dignity and fundamental rights of the victim are violated
  2. Aggression is constant and lasts over time

But how to avoid mobbing or workplace harassment? 

“From my experience it’s really important to make things clear. I mean to have some kind of protocol about what is forbidden to do or to say because it can be inappropriate and what behavior is harassment. People have to know the limits not to cross” – says Alejandra Oliva, Principal Consultant at MBI.

Alejandra told us that during her working experience she faced different situations when women didn’t know how to act in situations because they were not sure if the attitude of another person was normal or already crossed all the limits.

We have asked Alejandra what advice she can make to HR areas to combat workplace harassment.

“It’s really important to have somebody who can protect us. When we know what harassment is, we have to be sure that we can notify the HR area about the situation and they will take action. HR area can make lectures to explain better what you can do in such situation, how to react, how prevent it”

It’s an obligation of every company to protect their employees.

It’s really important to be aware of what harassment is. “The companies have to have strict and clear policies, have complaints programs and guarantees that the rights of every person in the team will be protected” – recommends Erika Martos, Vice President at MBI. 

For example through outreach workshops and courses on workplace harassment HR can Inform the team and make sure they know the consequences of mobbing, of carrying it out, and so on. Sometimes these situations are maintained over time because people do not know how to manage them, that is why it is important to train them and disseminate what tools they have at their disposal and how to act.

HR has to act quickly. You shouldn’t  wait for serious damage to the worker’s health to occur.

It’s really important to punish the bully, so that he learns from his mistakes and to move the harasser and not the victim, in case the workplace harassment situation cannot be resolved in any other way.

One of the most important parts is to support the victims, especially on an emotional level.  

Harassment can lead to some physical and mental damages such as: tiredness, sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia), cardiovascular disorders (hypertension, arrhythmias, chest pains, etc.), nervousness, rejection of the workplace, apathy and depression.

To avoid workplace harassment, we can all promote a safe work environment, putting trust and communication into practice. However, if organizations do not have defined policies and clear procedures in front of a situation like this, employees, and women especially because today we´re speaking about women will find themselves unprotected, therefore, it is an obligation above all of the CEO and the HR Manager, to generate an atmosphere of security to guarantee well-being. At MBI we work every day to create safe and happy workplaces for everybody in the company.

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