3 Forms of subtle workplace harassment

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2019 | Harassment |

Harassment describes offensive or emotionally distressing behavior that an employer might exhibit or direct towards you. Harassment can happen to anyone, but it isn’t always obvious. While some forms of harassment involve blatant comments, gestures or inappropriate conduct, other times, your boss might display harassment in more subtle ways.



Your employer doesn’t have to directly threaten you or make degrading comments to your face in order for it to count as harassment. Sometimes, it’s not what they say to you, but what they wear, post or display in the workplace.

They may even make offensive or derogatory remarks simply within earshot of you and the rest of your coworkers. For example, microaggression is one way your boss might exhibit indirect harassment in the workplace. All these indirect methods of harassment and more can be just as harmful as direct, blatant harassment.


Speech isn’t the only method of communication in the workplace. Body language is a form of harassment that can easily go unnoticed at first. If you begin to notice any of the following behavior in your boss when you’re around them, you may be experiencing nonverbal harassment:

  • Rolling their eyes
  • Crossing their arms
  • Shaking their head
  • Grimacing or frowning
  • Glaring
  • Deliberately turning away from you

Another manipulative and isolating form of nonverbal harassment is consistently and purposefully leaving you out of important emails or meetings that pertain to you. An employer might also ignore you or give you the “silent treatment” when it’s completely unwarranted.


Many times, people mask hurtful or offensive comments with humor. Sarcasm, for example, is a commonly used form of this.

Humor itself isn’t a bad thing in the workplace. In fact, humor can often lead to a successful work environment. It can lighten the atmosphere, spark creativity and make your workday more enjoyable. However, many people use jokes or humor as an excuse to get away with conveying derogatory ideas or hurting others.

Harassment in your workplace can make you feel unwelcome and excluded. It may even make it hard for you to come into work or focus on your daily tasks. When you experience harassment at your job, it violates your rights to a safe, inclusive work environment. Don’t hesitate to protect these rights and take action against abusive employer.


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