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Workplace Harassment, Violence and Bullying–Examples of All Three

Often employers, human resources or others clump workplace harassment, workplace violence and workplace bullying into one. However, the law and others define them differently, and so should you.

There are overlaps between each and many similarities. Most importantly, all can severely harm employees and business, and prove a deterrent to productivity and the overall health of the company.

I’ll be breaking down the main differences between workplace harassment, violence and bullying below, along with their similarities.

Official Definitions:

Workplace Harassment Definition: “Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Workplace Violence Definition: “Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide,” according to OSHA.

Workplace Bullying Definition: Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work interference … or verbal abuse,” according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

official definition of workplace violence

The main difference between each is harassment relates to a person’s characteristic, like race, gender, religion or something similar, while bullying and violence doesn’t have to be related to someone’s gender, religion, etc. Bullying is when someone or a group targets an individual person or group, and harassment can be behavior directed at no direct person or group, just everyone in general. Moreover, harassment doesn’t require parties to have a relationship with each other, while bullying does.

Workplace bullies and harassers are not always the same person—a harasser could become a bully if they continue to target the same person. Similarly, a bully could become a harasser if their actions are because of their target’s race, age, religion, etc.


Workplace harassment, violence and bullying can all happen in secret or out in the open. It’s important to discuss each of these with employees so they are aware of the possibility. Moreover, each can be either physical or verbal, with verbal being the most common form of bullying and harassment.

All three can  prove costly and disruptive to your workplace. As employees become aware of harassment, violence or bullying in their workplace, their attention will shift from work to fear, tension-causing power struggles and to the victims.

According to the Law:

Currently U.S. law discusses workplace harassment and violence, not workplace bullying. Employers could be held liable if their employee claims harassment, but no protection exists for employees who claim being a victim of bullying.

Learning more about workplace harassment, violence and bullying; creating a plan to combat all should be important for any business. By creating a safe environment for employees, you are creating a better business.

Does your workplace need an anti-harassment plan? Worried your employees aren’t aware of workplace violence examples? Contact Huffmaster today to learn more about workplace harassment and what an anti-harassment plan looks like.

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Mike Saad, CPP

Senior Director Consulting Services at Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC
Michael Saad is Senior Director of Consulting Services, Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC. He is responsible for the security consulting line of business for the company. In that capacity he manages security program evaluation, corporate policy and procedure development, federal security compliance initiatives, corporate investigations, security threat and vulnerability analysis, and business risk management.
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