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Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Office

Consequences of harassment

For the individual

The impact and consequences of harassment will vary from person to person and will be influenced by the duration and severity of the offensive behaviour, but people generally react to harassment by exhibiting symptoms of increasing distress. Individuals will frequently experience some or all of these responses to harassment:

  • Disbelief—"this can't be happening; it isn't what I think it is; people don't really do this sort of thing”
  • Anger—"this isn't right; they can't do this; somebody has to make them accountable”
  • Self-blame—"why didn't I see this coming; I shouldn't have been there; I should have done something”
  • Loss of self-confidence—"I'm so stupid for letting this happen; I must be as bad as they say; I can't seem to act or make decisions"
  • Powerlessness—"Nothing is going to stop this; no one will believe me; people like this will always get away with it”
  • Isolation, withdrawal, illness, depression
  • Loss of sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches, stomach aches, or other illnesses
  • Increased anxiety or panic attacks
  • Loss of self-confidence
  • Feeling demoralized
  • Feeling humiliated
  • Fear of coming to work or school
  • Inability to concentrate on work or school
  • Intimidation from the harasser
  • Outbursts of misplaced anger
  • Increased absenteeism and sick leave

For the university

The impact of harassment on the University includes the human costs, but it has operational and financial implications as well. As employees and students experience harassment, the effect on the University includes:

  • Reduced productivity—increasing preoccupation with the offensive conduct, combined with reduced self-confidence and a tendency to engage others in the situation
  • Performance errors and a loss of individual and departmental productivity
  • Increased absenteeism—strategies to avoid the offensive behaviour can result in increased sick time and stress leaves
  • Turnover—with feelings of powerlessness and loss of faith in the ability of the University to address the matter, individuals will sometimes leave or exercise their right to move into other positions or programs of study
  • Negative impact on public image—either formally through the media or informally through word-of mouth, individuals will tell others of their experiences
  • Union grievance and arbitration costs
  • Human rights complaints and tribunal awards
  • Financial costs of formal harassment investigations, severance payments, and compensation awards

Do not ignore the problem - it will not go away.

Because of the significant personal and organizational costs of harassment and discrimination, it is important to address these inappropriate behaviours as early as possible. Ignoring harassment and discrimination doesn't make it go away. Instead, the perpetrator may view your silence as tacit acceptance of his or her behaviour. The behaviour will likely continue and may even escalate, compounding its detrimental effects.

New training initiative for all UFV employees

Help build a positive and inclusive workplace: complete your mandatory “Respect in the Workplace” web-based training now.

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