There are many workplace harassment examples that individuals experience daily. Harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that can have a negative impact on businesses. There are many different types of workplace harassment, and each one can create a hostile work environment. It is also illegal in many countries, and severe or sexual harassment can be a criminal offence. There are some common workplace harassment examples that have many negative effects on businesses. Knowing how to recognise them is the first step in understanding how to prevent them and how they could impact the business in the long term.

Managers who choose to ignore workplace harassment are part of the problem. Whether they think the act is innocent in their opinion, they have a duty of care to their employees and they need to protect them from harm. Therefore they need to put effort into researching what harassment is, what it can look like and how it can change over the years. 

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment is any type of threatening, unwelcome or offensive behaviour that affects an individual’s workplace environment. Workplace harassment examples can include physical or verbal abuse, bullying and microaggressions, limiting access to workplace resources and opportunities due to discriminatory practices and unwanted sexual attention.

Impact of workplace harassment

It is essential that employers take any complaints made about workplace harassment seriously because even small incidents can have serious psychological effects on those affected by it. Employees who experience workplace bullying often feel powerless due to their lack of ability to fight back against their harasser – especially if they are in a position lower than their harasser’s within the company hierarchy – and this leaves them feeling defenceless and helpless.

Victims may suffer from severe stress symptoms such as depression and anxiety as a result of their experience with workplace bullying. In addition to these psychological effects, there can also be long-term consequences such as reduced productivity due to missed days at work resulting from mental health issues caused by workplace hostility.

Employees who are not happy at their workplace are less likely to perform to the best of their ability. This is because they do not feel valued or heard. Employees do not want to put in effort for a company that mistreats them and ignores them. Organisations need to understand that staff is part of the company’s success and they are important in building a better future for the entity. They are humans and they have to be treated as such.

Workplace harassment examples

Workplace harassment is a serious problem that can have a lasting impact on victims and workplace morale. There are many workplace harassment examples that should be handled with similar yet different approaches. Some examples include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Power harassment


Among the workplace harassment examples, cyberbullying is the newest addition. Cyberbullying has become increasingly common in the workplace due to the ease with which malicious messages can be sent through emails and social media platforms. Cyberbullying can take many forms including sending threatening emails or SMS messages, posting offensive jokes, sharing manipulated images and spreading rumours online. Retaliation may also take place if an employee reports workplace harassment and is punished for doing so – this could involve discipline, demotion, firing, salary reduction etc. Employers should address workplace cyberbullying immediately as failure to do so may lead to legal action being taken against them if employees do not feel adequately protected from discrimination in their workplace.

Organisations should take proactive steps to prevent workplace cyberbullying from occurring in the first place by creating policies that forbid any kind of online harassment within the workplace environment. Additionally, all employees should be educated so they are aware of how their actions online may affect others and how to identify when another employee is engaging in abusive behaviour towards them. The organisation should also create a safe way for victims of cyberbullying to make formal complaints so the issue can be properly investigated and addressed. Finally, employers must ensure employees are provided with adequate support services during and after instances of cyberbullying occur.

When it comes to investigating workplace cyberbullying incidents, organisations should take caution as any wrong move could open up the possibility of litigation against them due to potential violations of privacy laws or other workplace rights. To begin an investigation into workplace cyberbullying incidents it’s important for organisations to establish standard procedures which include documenting any incidents that are reported and keeping detailed records of all conversations had with witnesses during the investigation process. Companies should also consult with legal counsel before taking any action against individuals accused of workplace cyberbullying incidents as certain legal ramifications could arise depending on the severity of allegations made against them.

When interviewing witnesses during investigations into workplace cyberbullying incidents organisations must provide a safe environment for employees so they don’t feel intimidated talking about what happened or who was involved in any particular incident. Businesses must ensure all information gathered through interviews is kept confidential so that those who are being interviewed feel comfortable discussing what occurred without fear of reprisal from other parties involved in the incident(s). At Polonious, we comply with high international standards to ensure that the confidentiality of evidence and parties involved is maintained.

Workplace harassment examples

Sexual harassment

Workplace sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome, offensive or hostile behaviour of a sexual nature creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive workplace environment. It is a form of workplace harassment that is prohibited by workplace anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws. Examples of workplace sexual harassment may include inappropriate touching, leering, demands for sexual favours, sharing sexually explicit photos and videos and making unwelcome comments about someone’s body. This is one of the workplace harassment examples that is usually targeted at women.

Sexual harassment can cause an employee to feel humiliated, degraded, anxious and depressed. It can also lead to workplace disruption due to its effect on morale. Victims of workplace sexual harassment often fear retaliation if they report their experiences, which is why such cases are underreported. To protect employees from workplace sexual harassment employers should have a comprehensive policy against it that outlines acceptable workplace conduct as well as procedures for reporting complaints. This policy should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure compliance with applicable laws and encourage employees to come forward if they feel harassed or mistreated.

Employers must also provide training on workplace sexual harassment so that employees understand the various forms it can take and the consequences for engaging in such behaviour. In some cases, employers may consider disciplinary action for employees who violate the organisation’s anti-sexual harassment policies. Additionally, companies are required to investigate any complaints of workplace sexual harassment promptly and thoroughly in order to determine whether there has been a breach of policies or laws and regulations and take appropriate corrective measures if needed.


Workplace discrimination is an illegal and unethical workplace practice that occurs when an employee or group of employees are treated unfairly on the basis of their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability, religion or national origin. It can include anything from unequal pay for the same job to workplace harassment and other forms of workplace bullying. Discrimination can also take subtler forms like not being given important projects or not getting promoted when a candidate is qualified for the job. While other workplace harassment examples usually occur once an individual is hired, discrimination can occur even before that.

One example of workplace discrimination is refusing to hire someone based on their protected characteristics. This could be in the form of outright refusing to hire a particular type of person or setting up recruitment practices that indirectly discriminate against someone. For example, if a company makes an advertisement asking only for women while both genders could do the job.

Policies and training have already been mentioned as preventative approaches but there are also other ways of addressing discrimination. Implementing diversity initiatives that seek to create an environment where different backgrounds, perspectives and opinions are valued, create a more unified work community. These initiatives can cover everything from expanding and improving recruitment efforts to offering special programs geared towards underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ+ community. More inclusive recruitment will lead to a more inclusive workplace that is diverse and aware of each other’s differences. It will minimise the chances of discrimination and other issues that may arise.

While workplace policies are designed to protect employees from workplace discrimination and harassment, employers cannot rely solely on them. It is advisable that companies implement programs that promote team building among staff members so everyone has an equal chance for success. Work lunches, employee days and other activities during work hours can encourage teamwork and better understanding of one another. It is crucial that all activities are undertaken during normal work hours to lower the chances of people not being able to attend. Additionally, ongoing evaluation measures need to be put into place in order to monitor progress over time regarding diversity initiatives within the organisation.

Power harassment

Power harassment is a form of workplace harassment that involves the misuse of power or authority by one or more individuals. It can be carried out through verbal abuse, physical assaults, undue demands and workplace segregation. The victim may feel trapped in their situation as they are powerless to stop the perpetrator from continuing their abuse.

Some other examples of power harassment include forcing an employee to perform tasks that are outside of their job description, withholding vital information from an employee needed for proper job performance, bullying or belittling comments made publicly and denying career progression opportunities. All these acts demonstrate a clear abuse of power and should not be tolerated in any workplace.

One of the most effective ways to prevent power harassment in the workplace is for businesses to create a workplace culture of respect, openness and equality. This means that supervisors and management should set an example by leading with kindness, fairness and respect. They must be willing to listen to their employees’ concerns and address any issues that arise quickly and fairly.

Organisations can also take steps to ensure that all workplace policies are enforced evenly throughout the company, regardless of who is involved. Management should avoid favouritism or giving preferential treatment based on personal relationships at work, such as friendships or family ties. Supervisors should also be aware of potential risks such as gossiping or favouritism towards certain individuals in the workplace which could lead to power harassment. Furthermore, companies can use surveys, performance evaluations, and other feedback methods to measure how effectively they are addressing workplace harassment issues.

These systems provide employers with valuable information about their work environment so that they can take appropriate action if needed. Entities should ensure that all reports of workplace harassment are addressed quickly, either by talking to individuals or with a thorough investigation process before taking disciplinary action against any employees involved. This will allow justice to be served appropriately.

Please note

There are many other workplace harassment examples that have not been covered but may be present in companies. While workplace harassment examples may have similarities, they require their own unique strategies for dealing with them. It is important for employers to recognise signs of possible workplace bullying before it gets out hand so steps can be taken quickly before more serious psychological damage occurs. Warning signs include changes in an individual’s performance level at work, frequent absence from work without explanation, sudden changes in moods and withdrawal from usual social activities. Each one of the workplace harassment examples will also have its own sign.

Respect in the workplace is a two way street. Employers should earn respect by showing respect and vice versa. To ensure that things are running smoothly they can use employee feedback systems in which employees can anonymously report any occurrences of workplace harassment they experience or witness without fear of punishment or retribution.

At Polonious, we specialise in different types of harassment investigations and we are ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 certified to ensure that all complaints are dealt with privately and confidentially. We assist our companies in looking into harassment complaints and help them make their workplace a better place to be. If you want to learn more, request a demo!