For remote workers, the lack of public visibility, more casual atmosphere, and different promoters of stress may harbor situations that make harassment much more common. These are by no means excuses for poor behaviour, but it’s important to try and understand why this is such a frequent complaint amongst remote workers.
As a reminder, this is any type of harassment, ranging from sexual harassment in the form of inappropriate comments, to ridicule, to a constant hounding on chat around getting an assignment completed at all hours of the day and night.
This is not just limited to a physical pat on the back, or a blatant, belligerent screaming at in a virtual group meeting.
Unfortunately, most incidences of harassment go unreported, even when someone has been made to feel uncomfortable, because a lot of people think if it’s not obvious, or seen by others, that they shouldn’t bring it up. They write it off as an “accident“, or “they didn’t mean it”, or “it was a one time thing”.
Well, you can absolutely help ensure it was a “one time thing” by taking appropriate action.
Let’s look into the “Do’s & Don’ts” of how to handle harassment in the workplace, whether you’re a remote worker or in the office.
First off, let’s start with what you should not do.
If you feel you have been a victim or target of harassment, the things you don’t do are just as important as the steps you take to remedy the issue.
Don’t #1: Blame Yourself.
It is very easy for people to wonder if they did something to provoke offensive behaviour. Please don’t do this to yourself!
Ruminating over whether you may have set someone up with an invitation to say or do something inappropriate diminishes your self worth a bit.
You are absolutely not responsible for someone else’s actions.
Nothing good can come from trying to accept responsibility for the action occurring, so move forward with the right steps to help make sure it doesn’t happen again, to you or anyone else.
Don’t #2: Fire back something Inappropriate also.
If tensions have escalated, or someone is pushing your buttons, try to remain calm and not say anything that can implicate you, as well. If someone is screaming at you in a team meeting, yelling back for all to see is not the best response.
Remember, you’re not responsible for them, but you are for yourself.
Likewise, if someone has written a sexually inappropriate chat message about how you look, don’t send a nasty one back.
However, the only time I would say to not follow this advice is if you’re physically being touched and feel scared or in danger – then, all bets are off and you should defend yourself as the line is crossing from harassment to assault.
Even though the thought may cross your mind to get aggressive, keep it to yourself and channel that energy towards the right action.
Don’t #3: Broadcast it to the office.
Sharing with a close confidant is one thing, however, don’t send out a mass email regarding the offensive actions, or tell everyone within earshot.
Others do have to work with this individual, and you don’t want to be seen as part of the problem by handling it unprofessionally, as well.
There are certain people that need to be informed, but especially when it happens, make sure only your trusted person and management or People Ops are aware.
Now, let’s look at the steps you absolutely should take to handle harassment in the workplace.
Do #1: Document it.
One of the first things you should do is send an email to yourself or write down exactly what happened.
- Were there any witnesses?
- What was your response?
As time goes on, you may forget crucial details that are important to capture, and if you carry this to People Operations, they will need something written, as well.
While it’s fresh, jot it down, even if you wait a day to carry forward with a complaint.
Do #2: Report it. I
f you want to take a first level pass, report it to your manager, but if not, carry it forward to People Operations (especially if the poor behavior is from your manager).
Make sure they have all of the details, as well. If you have repeated incidences of this happening, have everything documented before you go to People Ops.
Consult your handbook first, so you can point out to them how you feel this has affected you and why you have a right to bring this up.
Do #3: Keep up your Performance.
As difficult as it may be, keep going in the right direction on your tasks and assignments.
Make sure you are still seen as a valuable employee and are working hard at putting your company first.
If you have positive performance reviews, have those ready, as well, to share with People Operations once the issues have been discussed.
Harassment in the workplace is a terrible thing for anyone to have to deal with, and if it’s something you’re going through, know that you are empowered to take action.
You absolutely have a right to work without the repercussions of a negative environment, and make sure you lean on your support as you tackle this issue.
You deserve a healthy, productive workplace where your light will shine unobstructed.