Psychological harassment hurts employees, productivity

Hidden, psychological harassment can become a serious problem for workers and business
By Stuart Rudner
|CHRR, Report on Employment Law|Last Updated: 10/17/2007

The rising number of complaints relating to workplace harassment, bullying and poisoned work environments has made psychological harassment a hot topic. Employers need to be aware of the potential liabilities, whether or not they happen to operate in a jurisdiction that has legislation specifically prohibiting psychological harassment.

Claims can be made even in the absence of such legislation, and the damages awarded can be significant. Furthermore, even if no legal claim is pursued, the behaviour can have a considerable impact on the bottom line and morale, leading to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, turnover and a diminished reputation.

Psychological harassment can be hard to define, but it certainly includes physical or verbal intimidation, unnecessary yelling, name-calling, insults, derogatory comments, attacks on an individual’s reputation, attempts to make an individual look bad, isolation, inappropriate work assignment and unnecessary investigations. Such harassment can be perpetrated by managers, supervisors and co-workers, and employers can be held liable.