Mental Harassment at Workplace
by: ROHAN ROY
Mental harassment at its best is harmless, embarrassing, and silly but at its worst it attempts to prevent individuals from independent thinking, often leading to loss of self-esteem and serious physiological problems. Unfortunately, what starts as a mere act of ignorance, soon degenerates into numerous incidents of torture and mental abuse, which often proved fatal. In today’s fast-paced competitive work environment, harassment has become more common than we realize. These situations are commonly faced by men and women who have a passive and compliant personality. An individual gets harassed when the victim is seen as being weak or without the courage to step up. Hierarchy plays a key role in how a person faces mental harassment in the workplace.
A 2016 study of over 6,000 employees across India found that one in two Indian employees suffers from anxiety and depression. The number of cases in Bengaluru was so high the city was even called India’s suicide capital. This and many other such significant surveys showed a repetitive pattern where the employees tend to have faced the same kind of plight. One of the reasons for the degradation of mental health at the workplace is sexual harassment. Many cases have come to the spotlight in recent years where body-shaming and incidents of abuse have been reported.
The #metoo movement in India which was an outgrowth of the American social movement shook social media platforms in 2018. The movement gave exposure and an opportunity for various oppressed to come up with their stories. But if we break the common notion of linking every mental harassment with sexual harassment at the workplace, then we might figure out issues, often unaddressed and unheard of. Social alienation of a person is something that often goes unheeded. People are often alienated, unknowingly based on race, religion, national origin, disability, family history, political beliefs, and marital status. The most disappointing fact that comes to light after detailed research, is that social alienation is not considered as a cause of mental harassment in numerous work fields. Thus, reporting such problems results in embarrassment and loss of self-esteem. Furthermore, many working sectors are exempted from the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act which makes it easy to hire and fire. Most people keep silent because of this fear.
In 2019, a 19-year-old employee of private carrier Go Air committed suicide. Later, it was reported that he was suffering harassment at work and his complaints of social alienation and poor health were often ignored by his seniors. We come across several such incidents in the newspaper. Workplace harassment covers a wide range of behavior ranging from subtle intimidation to aggressive speech. Harassment often leaves the victim uncomfortable and confused.
Now the question is, in a country where problems like mental harassment and depression are given least importance, what can we do to create a workspace beneficial to all. Firstly, Companies must organize life workshops to address such issues. Moral boosting workshops amidst immense workload helps overcome stress and also leads to better communication among employees. Secondly, employees must find a way to voice their thoughts and experiences. Being left alone at workspace can be a terrible experience hence active participation in group activities and seeking advice from loved ones helps to connect with people. Thirdly, if someone faces sexual harassment and constant bullying at the workspace, he/she must confront the trusted seniors and executives. If a company denies taking necessary actions, there are laws in the Indian legislation, to protect the dignity of a person belonging to the working class. Bullying and sexually harassing someone to such an extent that the victim loses self-esteem, confidence, and clarity of thinking, is a crime. The person accused of such crime if found guilty may even end up in jail for up to two years.
There’s nothing more toxic and demoralizing than having to work in an environment where a bully or stealth harasser gets to threaten, haze, feast, overpower and exist daily. The solution is to speak up. Mental harassment can be the result of both external and internal torments, but keeping it within allows it to grow like an infection that slowly but effectively degrades one’s life. Many organizations have been established in India which focus on protecting the dignity of the working class of this country. Collaborative efforts of such organizations have helped many people come out from a difficult phase in their life.
A nation would never succeed without progress, and the working class forms the key pillar and representation of such progress. Keeping that in mind, we must respect the endeavors of the organizations and individuals, who work effortlessly to stop such violation and indignity towards the working class.
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