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What Are the Types of Workplace Intimidation?

Sexual harassment is one type of workplace intimidation.
Although not very common, workplace intimidation can consist of physical harming.
Spreading false rumors can be considered a form of workplace intimidation: sabotage.
In a workplace setting, it's essential that all employees feel that any harassment or other concerns can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
Inappropriate touching is considered a form of workplace intimidation.
Verbal abuse is the most common type of workplace intimidation.
Harassing texts can be a form of workplace intimidation.
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  • Originally Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Revised By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2014
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Workplace intimidation is intentionally and maliciously causing an employee or coworker to feel inadequate or afraid. This includes verbal threats, unjust criticisms, sabotage of a person's work or supplies, sexual harassment, and physical violence. Actions like these erode the confidence of employees and affects their ability to do their jobs. In many places, it is punishable by fines and imprisonment, and businesses may also be held liable if they do not respond appropriately. Those who feel they are being subjected to workplace intimidation can get help from managers and law enforcement.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is one of the most common types of workplace intimidation. This includes constantly putting down coworkers or employees, threatening others, or repeatedly making disgusting, offensive, or inappropriate remarks. Workplace bullies are often jealous of the accomplishment of others, and try to make their work more difficult by insulting and threatening them. Even when no physical harm is administered, verbal abusers can cause significant emotional stress, and make an employee feel uncomfortable and scared to go to work.

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Sabotage

Some office bullies sabotage the equipment or accomplishments of other workers. They might erase important computer documents, spread false rumors about another worker, or steal essential supplies from a person's workplace. When such acts of sabotage go unnoticed by management, the victim is often punished instead of the bully. Some managers also sabotage their underlings by unfairly denying them promotions or bonuses, intentionally giving them work that's very unpleasant or boring, or giving them incomplete instructions to ensure that they fail at project.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment consists of inappropriate sexual comments, the display of offensive materials, or physically touching another worker in a sexual manner. It can come from men or women, and be directed at either sex. It can result in depression when the victim feels helpless to find a solution to the problem.

Physical Harm

Ongoing violent acts in the workplace are uncommon, but when this type of workplace intimidation occurs, the results can be devastating. A worker that is tripped, shoved or hit frequently at work can experience physical injuries and psychological pain. In addition, the expectation of future attacks can severely limit a worker's productivity and enjoyment of his or her job.

Employer Response

Businesses can be held at fault for not responding appropriately to reports of harassment or intimidation, so it is important to ensure that in-house procedures are in place to deal with workplace bullying and that employees are aware of them. In many places, businesses have a legal obligation to do certain things in response to any claim of workplace intimidation, regardless of whether it is true or not. This generally includes things like keeping certain types of documentation and reporting claims to government anti-discrimination agencies. Anti-bullying and anti-discrimination organizations often provide training and workshops to help businesses know what to do in case of claims.

Employee Response

People who believe they have been harassed or intimidated at their jobs can take several steps. The first time the behavior happens, it's generally best to confront the bully and tell him or her that his or her actions offensive, and will be reported to human resources if they continue. Workers should keep detailed records of any incidents that occur and try to find witnesses to help back up their claims. If the person is too afraid to confront the bully directly, then he or she can speak to HR or a manager. Most companies have in-house procedures to follow in these situations. If the problem is still not resolved, and there is an ongoing pattern of intimidation, a worker may be able to claim that there is a hostile working environment, and seek legal compensation.

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Discuss this Article

anon344190
Post 29

I had one of two owners/bosses (small company) tell me to, "find other arrangements for your kid appointments or find other arrangements for a job" at the end of May.

Since then, I have been nervous around him, and there have been several occasions when he does ask things of me or speaks to me, and it's like I'm a kid who doesn't understand. Most recently I was accused of something I didn't do, even when asked if I did it and I clearly stated no and showed what exactly I had done.

I took a week off in June due to severe stress with a doctor's note, and now the feeling is back again. What would this fall under in a labour environment? I work in a small engineering company and there are certain rules that do not apply under ESA in Ontario due to the type of company and size of the company.

anon343093
Post 28

Interestingly enough, I was bullied by the executive director of a women's organization in the Twin Cities, MN. One of our goals was to empower women. She clearly wasn't empowered, as she was threatened by the fact that I had more education and experience than she did, and the fact that other employees liked me. She has since been fired and cannot find a job.

anon339762
Post 26

I was physically attacked two years ago and nothing was done about it. My manager told me not to mention it. The person who hit me has now been promoted to my supervisor and I've been bullied and given verbal warnings. Now I've been escorted out of work and suspended but I don't know why I think someone has lied about me threatening them.I haven't done anything wrong. I've got the union involved but should I go to the police?

anon329647
Post 25

I was working in the maintenance department for quite some time, and then I was assigned to the operations department. I was excited knowing that I was going to explore more and get all the experience I need as I'm doing a course in connection with the position.

However, ever since I got here, I have not felt comfortable or welcomed by the co-workers in this department. It has gotten to the point that I want to go back to my happy office environment, which is maintenance.

Every time I come to work, I feel that I'm being watched like a hawk, and what hurts most is that even the boss doesn't even greet me, and when I greet him he doesn't even respond, and it has happened several times. When he comes to the office, he just passes me by like I don't even exist. He greets everyone except me.

How do I go about asking my human resources manager to go back to my old office? I just don't feel comfortable working in this department, but I don't want to be asked questions as to why do I want to go back to my old office. I need to find a professional way to approach her, because I cannot work under these conditions anymore. --Diana

anon326757
Post 24

I have been at my job for 18 years. My dad also worked for the company in another building and lost his job due to making threats. His store manager had a restraining order against my dad that has since expired. Now the manager is working at my store and I have been passed over for several promotions to less qualified employees.

I have 18 years experience in the dept I work in (tire install) and these supervisory and management positions are being given to people who have zero experience and I'm training them. I'm being scheduled to work six days a week, four hours a day, however they frequently call on my one day off or beg me to come in earlier than my scheduled shift, and I rarely tell them I can't.

Every time I have been denied promotion, I'm told I need to show more initiative. I have never been written up and my yearly reviews are outstanding by corporate standards. The only area for improvement is my attendance, but even that is still within company standards and legal allowances while dealing with a terminally ill child.

My child has since passed and absences are no longer an issue. There is no reason I shouldn't be promoted. Could I have a case for intimidation or harassment based on the bad history between the store manager and my dad?

anon326115
Post 23

I have been physically assaulted by a co-worker (not in the office, though).

Since then I feel very distressed, especially when I am at the office and have to see him and hear him talking. I was asked to team up with him for a project and when I tried to start cooperating with him I was in fact so upset I felt sick and wasn't able to do my job.

I have reported what happened to my supervisor. He was sympathetic, but seemed to have no clue of what steps to take. He ended up saying he will give me some time to 'calm down' and forget about it.

I don't honestly think that the point is giving me time, particularly considering that I sit in front of my abuser Monday through Friday.

If anybody could suggest to me what to ask my supervisor to do, I'd be very grateful.

anon317044
Post 22

There's a creepy guy that works across the hall from my office. He will literally stand by his office door with the lights off (thinking that I don't see him) and when I open the door to leave, he swings the door open and stops me like it was a coincidence. I've had to change my schedule numerous times because he knows my schedule and will stalk around outside by my car and wait for me.

I've told my boss and other co-workers that he makes me uncomfortable, but my boss does nothing about it. I've recently noticed that the guy will stand in a dark office that faces the parking lot where I park and he watches me leave at night. One night, he even followed me.

He's older (probably in his 50s) and I'm 28. His girlfriend works for him. Should I confront her and tell her about it or should I confront him? (don't really want to do).

anon314236
Post 21

It is like the only things that stands is evidence, so keep your tape recorder on, or video camera on. Not everything is right that is done to employees. You have to learn to stand up for yourself in all situations realistically and protect yourself. There may be no one around who can act as a witness.

anon302331
Post 20

I have been harassed and even shoved on the jobsite, but I handled it wrong. I did not know what to do and was basically in shock that it was happening.

The thing is, I may have to work with this guy again and know it will start up all over again. I am too old to fight the kid, which is more accepted in construction than tattling. This happened while building onto the local high school with kids present.

I was warned by a coworker that this guy does not like white people and found it out fast. Going to the boss is a fail as is getting witnesses because no one wants to get involved. It may cost their jobs.

What do I do if I have to work with him again? First, I now know I should have called the police when he shoved me, so if it happens again, that will be my start.

anon292045
Post 19

I started work after qualifying but due to an illness with my child, I had to wait until I could work.

An employee started where I work, and without failure, has criticized, intimidated and called me names. I have reported this to the manager, as I was not the only person experiencing this. However, the manager was going to chat to this worker about allegations, and the worker took ill. He has been off for two weeks and the manager has taken annual leave for a month. I have to work with this person soon but feel that nothing has been done to address this issue.

amypollick
Post 18

@swrigh98: I know you didn't want to create waves and so forth, but honestly, the second that man put his hands on you, no matter your respective sizes, you should have called the police. That would have ensured a report was filed.

In the absence of that, write down exactly what transpired between you and the individual, and then exactly what you did about it, how you reacted, what your boss said, etc., and the outcome -- and any witnesses, times and the dates of each event.

The important thing here, to me, is not that your hours were cut, although there's no doubt in my mind it was punitive. The issue is that she condoned by her actions a fellow employee putting his hands on you. That is unacceptable, period, and would be the basis of any legal action I would take.

Basically, she allowed an employee to assault you, and she rewarded him with more hours. You expressed a fear of future injury and she penalized you. A police officer told me one time, "If you think it's a threat, it's a threat." It's about the receiver's perception, not the instigator's actual intent.

You've got legal grounds here that have nothing to do with race, and everything to do with fear of bodily harm and assault. Get yourself a good lawyer.

swrigh98
Post 17

I have a male co-worker who has been verbally bullying me for some time now. While this was going on, my boss was sending us very vague memos saying that "because some people are not dedicated," and listing specific incidents without names of people not doing their jobs, "everyone has to suffer" and we're all getting our hours cut. I have never been written up, never had any verbal warnings, worked hard for the business and the specific examples she provided were things that I had never been guilty of.

I tried to ride it all out because I didn't work with the bullying co-worker very often. And while I disagreed with her methods of complaining about certain people (even without naming names) in public memos, as far as I knew, it had nothing to do with me anyway. In the meantime, no one’s hours got cut.

Finally, the bullying in the workplace reached a point where I could no longer try to remain professional with the bully. This past Friday, he physically shoved me away from the cash register so he could run it. He is a grown man and I am a young, petite college-age female. His actions made me very uncomfortable and I was scared of what would happen if they continued to escalate. So I went to my boss and reported the harassment.

Now, there is no chain of command where I work. It is a family owned business, my boss is the owner and she is the only person I can go to. There is no corporate, there is no HR, there is no company lawyer. My boss told me that she would respond by making sure we never worked together again. As soon as I left her office, she began working on making the schedule for the next week, which she posted about 15 minutes after our conversation. The bully's hours were increased and I had been cut down to nine hours per week.

When I was first employed, we had a verbal agreement that I would not be willing to take the job unless I was promised a minimum of 20 hours per week because I have to pay to commute back and forth to school. During my interview, she agreed, so I took the job. The store hours themselves were cut, so everyone pretty much took some sort of a time cut, but these people were taken down from 30 to 20 hours per week. I was cut from 30-plus hours per week down to nine. I am inclined to believe that my hours were cut because I complained about being harassed, especially since his hours were increased and he took many of what used to be my days.

But I also noticed that one other person had been cut down to eight hours per week: the only other Caucasian employee besides myself, in a business that prides itself in being only one of two minority owned businesses on Broad Street.

I have no idea what to do. Go to the unemployment office and tell them that I cannot sustain myself on the hours I've been given and ask for advice? They can probably offer me help, but only if I continue working there. I cannot continue working in a place that condones a hostile work environment. Ask her for a separation notice? She's an absentee boss. She's hardly ever there and I have no idea when I'll see her again. I often don't see her for weeks at a time. Talk to a lawyer? I can't prove that my hours got cut because I complained about being harassed. I can show that the two Caucasian associates have been cut down to single-digit hours per week, but there is also an African American high school student there who only works weekends and has always only worked weekends, so I can't really prove that her hours didn't get cut, too.

I commute to Kennesaw State University, which is a two hour drive from where I live. I can't afford to get back and forth to school and I haven't found another job yet. I'm trying to get into the Bagwell College of Education so I can become a school teacher, but if I start missing classes I will miss my opportunity and my future will be ruined. Someone please help me.

anon284079
Post 15

I started a new job two weeks ago, and the pressure is on me to now know what I am doing. It is a telephonist job. I am constantly put down.

My day today ended with me being asked if I had a hearing problem or if I have always had trouble remembering things. I type fast and I can listen to calls and take messages. I am a mature adult with plenty of experience. Because I have been out of work for some time, coming back and being spoken to like this and told off as well is now bothering me. What do I do and where can I go for help?

It is shocking to know how bad the boss and a co-worker are speaking to me. I am feeling like utter trash at the moment and I don't know why. If I leave my job, then I will be penalized and if I go back, I'll have to face further verbal abuse. It is a family business and it's starting to make me sick. Where do I go for help?

anon274798
Post 14

I used to work for an organization, Inovo, that is also one of the worst places to work. All of the upper management bully and intimidate their employees. How are they allowed to do this?

anon273637
Post 13

Anything on going should be recorded. Take a video (spy cams, nanny cams -- anything, including audio).

Contact an ombudsman. Start saving money and start a diary of every little detail, contact human rights and fight for yourself.

If you can't fight, start a wrongful dismissal (since that might happen anyway) and never lower yourself to give them ammo against you, e.g., swearing, threats, foul or abusive language.

I wish more people would not just stand by and watch people being mistreated, because once that person is gone, they focus on the next, and that could be you!

I am involved in several cases, and the worst thing is those trying to not get involved lying or standing by, and letting people stand alone It is causing our disability and welfare. It hurts all of us!

anon273417
Post 12

@anon149594: Are you my co-worker? I'm teasing because this sounds exactly like what I am going through. My boss retired back in November and we got a new "director," I actually applied for the position when our original one retired. I was denied the job (after doing it for over a month after the original left by continuing the program) because I didn't "have the best teacher" (people didn't like my old boss, even me). But then we get some new manager, and ever since she started, I have gotten in trouble more times than at any other job I have ever been at my entire life. I have been written up four times in less than six months.

Each time I am written up, it is from an allegation that took place over a weekend she was never there. My recent write up was considered my "final warning" before termination. She commented to me in front of HR, "Do you even want to be here?" as in, do you want to work here, since you don't seem to care.

Every time, she claims I lost that motivation and I don't seem enthusiastic about my job. It's crap, though. I work at a nursing home for activities and residents who live there are always asking when I am coming back, and always eager to come to my activities, but because I can't get them to come down on a weekend (the day they know they can rest) that comes back to me as being unenthusiastic.

My co-worker, who does the same as me, does a lot of the things I've been written up for, but has not gotten in trouble or written up half as much. I love my co-worker -- she's the best -- so I don't mention this to my boss, because I don't want to throw her under the bus just because I got in trouble for it already. But the funny thing is my boss already knows this is true. I think I'm suffering gender discrimination.

anon261868
Post 11

My wife has an employee who has just told her if she doesn't let her go home early, she is going to report this to her union. She claims to be disabled but is allowed to work about 24 hours a week. She rarely works her full shift and is constantly calling in sick.

I'm not sure if this is a form of intimidation because she knows she can get away with saying this. Any comments?

anon259396
Post 10

There are bullies at my workplace who make subtle threats to reveal details about co-workers' personal lives. They find out details about people's families or childhoods and discuss them in the workplace. For example, one woman was abused as a child by her brothers so every day when she comes into work they will start casually by saying the word “brother” to let her know that they are aware of her past and to unnerve her. It worked; she eventually quit! These are junior level employees. They are not even in management, so it baffles me how they continue to get away with it.

Every year, good workers, male and female, are leaving the company because of their personal lives being splashed everywhere. Another man's father is an alcoholic and drug addict, and they discuss that too. Never directly, but by alluding it in the person's presence so that everyone is aware who is being discussed. It has made our work environment a very scary place because we never know what or who is next. We feel like these people are holding us at gunpoint and are in constant fear of what comes out of their mouths.

What is really ironic is that the ringleader was abused as a child. His mother was a sex worker at some point in his childhood and I believe this scarred him emotionally. He is lashing out by bullying everyone, and even his fellow bullies are not safe; they all have dirt on each other. He targets mainly women, but men are not safe either. Many employees have quit because of this guy and I mean many, especially women.

What puzzles me is that I am convinced that management is aware of what this man is doing. Why are they not firing him? Do you see where I'm going with this? He has dirt on them. This guy calls himself the godfather and expects everyone to be scared of him. Most people are. I am not. I admit I have dirt myself. Let him bring it. I plan to expose the whole thing, management included.

I do not plan to live my life terrified of this cowardly man. Even his own wife has run away from him and has gone to live with relatives in a different town. But I need to do it legally and effectively. Please help me. I need advice on how to go about confronting someone like this.

anon212128
Post 8

Our boss has been told by upper management to stand on the assembly line and watch us like three year old children. He stares at his watch and times how long it takes us to assemble each part on our job. He glares at us constantly. When I approached the union about the glaring, they filed a grievance. Management's response to this was to gather all of us into a room and tell us to bring it on.

I do believe the statement was made, "I told him to do it and if you don't like it, quit, transfer out of the area, or shut up and do your job." The next day that same manager stood behind me on a job for over 30 minutes watching me work. How is this not harassment or intimidation? How can employers get away with this behavior?

anon167034
Post 7

I am in a bad situation at my work currently. I am being bullied by a fellow employee. He is a man and I am a woman. He screams at me, curses at me, and threatens me with statements such as, "You don't want to make me mad. You'll regret it." "Don't ever make me mad, You don't want to see me angry." "I've warned you," and so on.

The problem is our boss just happens to be his sister. I have gone to her repeatedly with my concerns. I actually fear this person. He gets so angry at me, he shakes his fists. He has a past record of violence and has served time in prison. She defends him and throws the problem back at me. "How do you think you can solve this situation?" Well, obviously if I could, I wouldn't be coming to her.

I have detailed records of the things that have gone on and yet no one is doing anything. I can't afford to leave my job but am seriously becoming afraid to go to work. What should I do?

anon149594
Post 6

During a (good) annual evaluation my boss said she 'feels' that I don't care about our department (she really said the word 'feels'). She said I definitely care about the company, but not our department. I asked for examples of what I do or don't do to cause her to feel this way, but she could not produce any information to help me understand what she was talking about or to improve. She just repeated that it's just a feeling she has. I insisted she needs to give me more information about what she means, but she again repeated it was just a feeling. I asked how can I improve if she's unable to tell me what I've done or not done to cause her to think I don't care about our department -- again, she couldn't tell me anything. Is this a form of intimidation?

I spoke to HR about it briefly. My boss, HR and I had a meeting and HR wouldn't discuss the comment of my boss feeling I didn't care, nor would she admit it shouldn't have been said if nothing concrete could be told to me of what I've done or not done. They both focused on my good evaluation and what was my issue with it, which was nothing except the comment that she feels I don't care about our department. I even made a list of things I've done for our department that, in my opinion, were above and beyond the call of my duties and showed I care. My boss responded that all these things are expected. No comment from HR about the list I made. These items I listed are actions I didn't need to take, but did so because I cared.

We didn't get anywhere and I requested a follow-up meeting twice but both have been too busy to meet. It's been four months and it hasn't come up again. I now have the attitude that it doesn't matter what I do, she will always think I don't care about our department so I've just been doing what I've always done -- to keep doing a great job because I care about our department.

We have worked together for about a year and she didn't hire me. She became my boss when our boss retired. This little 'thing' has been a thorn in my side because I still think about it often. When I do something extra for our department to make something better (because I care) my husband teases me by saying, "What? You care?" and I reply, "I, in no way, care" or something like that as we laugh about it. That may seem childish but it is certainly helping me get over my boss' intimidating comment.

I would appreciate any thought you have about this vague comment made to me by my boss, what it might mean, and suggestions of how to get over it to move forward.

anon148309
Post 5

I am a victim of intimdation and workplace violence. the manager and staff are more like gang members and thugs. The manager signed my name to a contract, threatened me repeatedly and also stalked and harassed me.

I gathered evidence on unlawful activity going on at this company and put it in my suite, and they broke into my suite to get it back left me a note. My sons helped save the evidence and then at work a shiv was found under a chair near the manager's office.

I need lawyers who do pro/bono or contingency work in BC canada. I am an american working here and going to UVIC.

anon108566
Post 4

With only four people in an open floor plan (business manager, operations manager, project coordinator, and receptionist) it would seem obvious when one person intimidates another yet nothing is done - it's ignored.

Recently, my nerviness around my co-worker has increased and with the tight economy finding another source of employment is difficult. All the signs mentioned in this article apply to me, and it's a receptionist who's behaving like a bully - jealous and vengeful.

And since this is a small business environment where policy manuals are non-existent, what legal rights do I have? Can the Labor Department get involved? Do I have to go to a shrink and get a "note from the doctor" as to why my nerves are shot?

In addition to the signs, a cultural war created by this receptionist includes speaking to field workers in her native language about me (defamation of character) and comments about being white, asking others how to pronounce "bleep you" in another language (hebrew to be specific), making sidebar comments to the courier about "having problems versus having issues," stomps by when passing my desk, slamming things onto her desk (since our desks are attached, it disrupts concentration), taking advance work away from me when I've stepped away (work she cannot handle but the boss is too busy to notice errors, etc.). What on earth will I do?

Moldova
Post 3

Mutsy- Another form of workplace abuse is discrimination in the workplace. Twenty years ago when I used to work as a cashier at Publix supermarkets, there were no women in positions of management or stock personnel.

The mindset back then was to have female cashiers only. The cashiers could be promoted to work in the front and back office which is where they did book keeping and balancing the tills for the day.

However, working as a stockperson was a requirement to get into management. At that time, women were only allowed to be cashiers. There was one female stockperson at my store that was given a difficult time because she was the only female in a male dominated job.

She did not give up and eventually after many years of struggling became a store manager.

This discriminatory policy of making it difficult for woman to get into management ended after an EEOC investigation. Now, Publix has men and women and minorities in managerial positions all over the company.

mutsy
Post 2

Greenweaver- Harassment in the workplace can also be in the form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a form of workplace intimidation in which he supervisor make sexual advances.

These advances are usually unwanted and cause the employee to be very uncomfortable at work. The supervisor may even proposition the employee and if the employee does not comply, the supervisor becomes increasingly irritated and threatens the employee's job.

Likely there are many workplace intimidation laws in place to counter such actions by negligent supervisors. These workplace polices are created fo these types of situations. A common workplace policy is not allowing supervisors and subordinates date.

If an employee feels that there is intimidation in the workplace they need to document all of the actions and speak to a human resource representative of the company. Sometimes an employee may be moved to a different location to avoid this workplace abuse.

GreenWeaver
Post 1

Workplace abuse happens quite often as bullying in the workplace becomes more common. Workplace bullying takes a number of forms.

It can be excessive criticism from a boss. The criticism could be harsh enough that it might give the impression that the employee's job is in jeopardy.

This type of constant criticism causes intimidation in the workplace because of the employee that's performing his or her job is in constant fear of losing his job. If you watch the movie, "The Devil Wears Prada" you will see this type of behavior in action.

This workplace bullying could even be set up by the boss in order to get the employee fired especially if the employee is seen as a threat to the supervisor.

For example, the supervisor might sabotage an employee or embarrass the emplopyee during a meeting in front of his peers, or might write them up for minor infractions

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