Bullying and harassment is often seen as a juvenile problem found in schools, but the unfortunate reality is that it can carry over to the workplace too. Both bullying and harassment can be major liability issues for companies, so it is important to be able to identify and stop them as quickly as possible. These two workplace problems are fairly similar, but they do have some distinct differences.

How to Distinguish Between Harassing and Bullying

Bullying is a sustained campaign of intimidation against an individual that may be carried out by one or more members of the office. It can often be very subtle, so the victim themselves may not realize they are being bullied for a while. Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, including spreading rumors, putting an unfair workload on a victim, socially isolating the person, or saying cruel things to a victim.

Harassment is more overt than bullying, and unlike bullying, the root of harassment is always a desire to target someone due to their gender, race, or other protected class. It occurs when one person displays unwelcome, offensive, intimidating, or hostile conduct towards another. It can take the form of sexual comments, physical violence, racial slurs, and more. Harassment is not always a prolonged situation. It can be ongoing or it can be a single incident.

Understanding the Legal Implications of Harassing and Bullying

In most places, harassment is always a legal issue because it involves a protected category. If a workplace does not step in and prevent the harassment, they may face legal action. Only four states technically prohibit bullying in the workplace. This means that it can be much harder to address bullying if the victim’s supervisors do not want to make a stand against workplace bullying.

Stopping Harassing and Bullying

Because they are treated as legally different matters, stopping harassing and bullying may require different steps. Both forms of problematic workplace conduct need dedicated supervisors and strict company wide policies against bullying and harassing. Harassment can be easier to address in many businesses because there are laws and regulations in place that discuss how to handle the problems. Sadly, victims of bullying do not always have legal recourse to prevent the bullying.