Why do harassers do what they do in the workplace? Too often, situations of workplace sexual, racial and cultural harassment surface, and, in many of these incidents, almost seems to be condoned within the culture of that workplace.
A workplace harasser usually is a supervisor or manager bent on humiliating an employee. However, harassers also may include peers, coworkers, clients, customers, vendors and even subordinates. And there have been a growing number of “phantom” harassers who leave anonymous notes on desks, offices and in lockers or resort to vandalism of the victim’s property. But why do they do it, besides being insecure bullies?
Power, prejudice and anger
Often, harassers believe that they have some type of power over you. They feel they can make or break you, fire and demote you, and give you unwanted work assignments and poor shifts. Some of the motivation behind workplace harassment includes:
- Power: Workplace harassment is often easier and “justified” by a harasser when that person perceives he or she has power over the victim. Most workplace harassers have seniority over their victims, serving as managers or supervisors. As a result, they may convince themselves that they can do what they want without suffering any consequences. This is a power play.
- Desire: Harassment may be considered a “sporting” game for certain perpetrators. They gain pleasure in demeaning and pushing around work colleagues and subordinates. Targeting vulnerable people often is the goal of these bullies, who once again use “power” to attempt to get away with such illegal acts.
- Prejudice: Whether cultural-, racial- or gender-related, prejudice may be a permanently instilled trait among workplace harassers. Perpetrators may convince themselves that their prejudicial actions are reasonable and see nothing wrong in what they do. It may be normal behavior to them, however, we know otherwise.
- Anger and rage: Perhaps the harasser is angry because he or she must work with someone of a different race, gender, religion or culture. Petty jealousy also may spark outrage and anger among a harasser. And it may even be for no reason at all, or simply just for spite.
Although you may understand some of the motivation behind your workplace harasser, you remain a victim. Stand up for yourself, take action, document every incident and report the harassment to a trusted person in your workplace.