Verbal Harassment in the Workplace: 5 Things You Should Never Say to Coworkers

verbal harassment

We all love to shoot the breeze while we’re at the office. It makes the workday go by faster and gives us the chance to get to know our colleagues.

But while it’s okay to crack jokes, there are certain things you should never joke about.

We hear a lot about sexual harassment these days, and for good reason. Each year, employees file over 12,000 sexual harassment cases–not to mention all the cases that go unreported.

The last thing you want to be accused of is verbal harassment in the workplace. Here are five examples of verbal harassment you must avoid.

1. Sexual Harassment

Consider this: 48% of women have experienced sexual harassment, while 41% of men have witnessed it.

Why is it so prevalent? Because people often feel they can make a joke about something that’s no laughing matter.

To ensure no one accuses you of harassment, you need to avoid:

  • Telling lewd jokes or anecdotes
  • Sharing inappropriate images or videos
  • Asking someone about their sexual preferences or history
  • Making jokes about someone’s sexual orientation
  • Whistling, catcalling, or other inappropriate behaviors

If you’ve experienced any of these yourself at your workplace, you should contact sexual harassment lawyers today.

2. Sex Discrimination

Sex discrimination is not the same as sexual harassment. It’s treating someone you work with in a certain way because of their gender.

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For example, a female supervisor might verbally put down the male employees in the office. Or she may only promote other female workers when there also qualified male workers who could fill the role.

This behavior is also closely linked with sexism. A woman might vocalize her feelings that all men are chauvinists. Or a man might joke about “that time of the month” if his female colleague is in a bad mood.

All of these behaviors are examples of inappropriate verbal harassment.

3. Religion

Religion is a hot topic these days–which is why smart employees know to keep their opinions to themselves.

You never want to make a sweeping, stereotype statement about a particular religious group. Avoid commenting on what they wear, eat, believe, or how they worship.

The same goes for commenting on a co-worker’s religious beliefs or trying to sway them to another ideology.

4. Race/Ethnicity

This is probably the second most common form of verbal harassment, after sexual harassment.

You aren’t going to win any friends in the workplace if you make jokes about someone’s race, nationality, or skin color.

It’s never okay to use racist slang, nicknames, or phrases–whether in front of the person or not. Show some respect and treat all your colleagues as equals, regardless of where they come from.

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5. Physical or Mental Attributes

Does someone in the office have an odd sense of fashion? Is someone especially overweight (or thin), or much older (or younger) than everyone else?

It might be tempting to tease them about their appearance, age, or habits. Don’t do it.

The only thing you’ll accomplish is creating a hostile workplace.

Verbal Harassment in the Workplace: Final Thoughts

While sexual harassment is the most common type, it’s not the only one.

By avoiding these 5 types of verbal harassment in the workplace, you’ll secure your job and win the respect of your colleagues.

Looking for more great advice on what to say? Check out our latest communication posts for more.