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Workplace Harassment in a Remote Office

Analysis  |  By HR Daily Advisor  
   October 19, 2021

Workplace bullying and harassment have always been there; it's only been made worse through the shift to remote work.

This article was first published October 18, 2021, by HR Daily Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.

Bullying and harassment are often seen as relics of childhood. But for many, even years removed from the playground or locker room, bullying and harassment continue. While the behaviors associated with workplace harassment may be subtler than the torments faced by many children, they can nevertheless be traumatic and cause their victims significant anxiety, apprehension, and depression.

Forms of Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment could be sexual harassment, which most people recognize as a genuine office issue, but it can also include derogatory comments based on race, religion, gender, or other elements of diversity. Harassment can also include aggressive forms of otherwise appropriate, work-related communication, such as shouting at or belittling someone for perceived poor performance.

For victims of workplace harassment, an anticipated benefit of the COVID-triggered shift to remote work may have been the expected opportunity to be farther removed from office bullies and their toxic behavior.

Unfortunately, those who habitually violate social norms and engage in harassing or bullying behavior are often perfectly able to extend their harassment virtually through the same media that allow teams to collaborate remotely.

Harassment in a Remote Workplace

Here are just a few ways workplace bullying and harassment can extend to remote employees:

  • Rude or aggressive e-mails, whether sent specifically to a single individual or to a broader group and targeting one or more members;
  • Inappropriate language or behavior communicated over the phone or on instant messaging platforms;
  • Toxic behavior on videoconferencing services; and
  • Bullying of coworkers on nonwork social media platforms.

All these behaviors can and do continue in many workplaces even when nobody is physically present in the office. It’s important for managers and HR departments to be conscious of their existence.

Addressing Remote Bullying

The silver lining of workplace bullying and harassment that take place in a remote setting is that they are often easier to document. Consider a crude joke made via e-mail as opposed to spoken verbally in the presence of one or just a few colleagues, for example.

Workplace bullying and harassment have long been issues plaguing workplaces of all kinds in their physical environments. That problem has only been made worse through the shift to remote work. Unfortunately, the attacks often do not stop just because work is being performed remotely. It’s essential that managers and HR professionals stay vigilant in identifying and addressing workplace harassment, whatever form it may take—or wherever it may occur.

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