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The 3 Types Of Harassment In The Workplace

Chandni Ahuja
14 Jun 2024
11 min read
The 3 Types Of Harassment In The Workplace

According to the Gallup Global Study, around 23% of employees have experienced any three types of harassment in the workplace, including physical, psychological, or sexual violence and harassment. Even the Culture Shift research found that 2 in 5 workers have experienced some kind of bullying, workplace discrimination, or harassment, with about 41% having witnessed it at work. 

As a business owner or an HR professional, determining different forms of bullying and discrimination can be quite challenging. However, it is your responsibility to recognize and address them efficiently. Now, of course, you cannot address different types of harassment without knowing the nature of the behavior and the different shapes they protrude in. This is why, we have come up with three types of harassment in the workplace to help you get a better insight into this sensitive topic and take the necessary actions in the future.

What Is A Workplace Harassment?

Discrimination is a clear-cut term referring to unfair treatment based on specific characteristics. Bullying is a complex behavior involving aggressive tactics. Harassment, on the other hand, is a broad term encompassing unwelcome behavior that creates a hostile environment. It can include elements of both bullying and discrimination.

In every organization, HR professionals often fail to identify the patterns of different types of harassment and miss the signs of workplace violence and harassment. We get it! Micromanaging employee behavior is impractical and inefficient. Moreover, there can be a gap between individual interpretations of workplace professionalism. 

For example, one employee might find using casual language with coworkers as a way to build rapport, while the other might find it disrespectful or unprofessional in a work setting. So it is important to set clear standards and guidelines when you foster a safe workplace for your employees. With the EEOC defining what constitutes workplace harassment and defining that workplace harassment contributes to a hostile work environment, HR professionals can often find themselves stranded, trying to keep a check on whether any employee crossed a line or not. 

3 Types Of Harassment In The Workplace

1. Verbal Harassment 

Verbal harassment or written harassment, is one of the most common forms of workplace harassment. Some of the verbal harassment examples include:

  • Offensive jokes or graphics about race, religion, or gender
  • Name-calling 
  • Derogatory comments and insults about someone’s age
  • Repeatedly asking for sexual favors or dates 
  • Imitating someone or gossiping behind their back

This type of discrimination or verbal harassment, not only affects the targeted victims but also breeds a toxic work culture. So, if you ever experience or witness verbal harassment in the workplace, you must immediately report it to the supervisor or your HR department. Better safe than sorry! 

If you are the HR Manager, you must ensure that you set clear guidelines and company policies on such matters regularly. Consistently reframing your policies, and catering to the safety of your employees would not only boost their trust and confidence in the organization but also keep its integrity and reputation intact. 

Embrace the corporate training culture by providing compliance training to your employees in fields like workplace harassment and prevention, and code of conduct, and help them upskill their soft skills to excel both personally and professionally.

2. Visual Harassment

Visual harassment in the workplace can take many forms. Visual harassment can manifest in seemingly minor ways, such as rude body gestures and inappropriate eye contact. However, these actions can have a significant negative impact on the target's well-being.

Some of the visual harassment examples include:

  • Making subtle remarks and offensive comments about someone’s appearance
  • Staring at someone in a very intimidating manner
  • Displaying vulgar postures, images, cartoons, or texts

Visual harassments in the workplace are often overlooked, as they seem subtle. But this can foster a workplace environment of anger, fear, and humiliation. As a manager or a supervisor, it is your duty to ensure the safety of your employees. These subtle remarks and gestures affect the employees in the long run, causing them mental stress, and anxiety, and even leading to depression. While the situation might seem very silly to one, it might have been a pretty traumatic event for another.

3. Physical Harassment

Physical harassment in the workplace isn't always obvious. It generally involves unwanted physical contact or aggressive sexual behavior against a targeted individual.

Some of the most common examples of physical harassment in the workplace include:

  • Lewd hand gestures conveying curse words
  • Unwanted touching, groping, or any form of physical assault
  • Frequently following or standing too close to a person
  • Pushing, hitting, or blocking the pathway
  • Throwing objects or spitting 
  • Making threatening gestures

It is essential to identify and address different types of harassment because leaving them unaddressed can create fear and anxiety in the workplace. So, as a business leader, make sure that your policies and company standards are crystal clear right from day one. This creates an outline of the boundaries your employees need to follow and ensures you prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

Promote A Safe Work Environment For Your Employees

To foster a culture of respect and inclusion, you must equip your employees with the right knowledge they need. This means you must conduct regular workplace trainings that help them understand what exactly workplace harassment looks like and take the necessary actions to prevent it from happening to yet another employee in your organization.

Familiarizing your employees with the anti-harassment workplace policies and conducting fun quizzes would enable them to learn and grow along with the organization.

Calibr LXP is one of the best LMS platforms out there to get started! From POSH Training and Workplace Violence and Harassment Training to Code of Conduct and Employee Health and Wellness, you can conduct effective corporate training for both HR professionals and employees. Calibr.ai offers unlimited access to about 22K+ trending workplace courses and the AI-powered course authoring tool allows you to create your own training modules and export the content as SCORM files into your LMS. So stop waiting and get started with the FREE trial now!! Request for a demo right away!


1. What is the difference between discrimination and harassment?

Discrimination is based on specific characteristics like race or gender, while harassment creates a hostile work environment through unwelcome behavior. Harassment can include elements of discrimination.

2. Is a rude joke considered harassment?

It depends. If the joke is offensive based on race, religion, or gender, or if it continues after someone asks to stop, it can be harassment.

3. Can staring be considered harassment?

Yes, if the staring is persistent and makes someone feel uncomfortable or intimidated, it can be visual harassment.

4. How can I report harassment in the workplace?

Report it to your supervisor or HR department immediately. Most companies have clear guidelines for reporting harassment.

 5. What can I do to prevent harassment in the workplace?

Employers should have clear policies against harassment and provide regular training for employees to help them identify and report harassment.

6. Does Calibr.ai offer workplace training programs?

Yes, we do! You can get access to over 22,000 Udemy business courses and 6500+ Packt eBooks and video courses. Calibr also provides access to trending workplace training in areas like behavioral skills, code of conduct, workplace harassment (POSH training), and anti-harassment prevention training. Visit the website to get free access to our course templates today!

Chandni Ahuja

As an enthusiastic English literature graduate, Chandni enjoys writing as much as a toddler enjoys animation. She discovered her passion for writing and expressing thoughts through this form amidst the nail-biting months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since then, she has volunteered in various anthology books that have been published on Amazon. Her experience working on a diverse range of verticals has enabled her to excel in this domain and face new challenges as they come. With a contagious thrill and excitement at the workplace, Chandni embraces wearing different hats and soaks up information like a sponge.