At Anova Health Institute, we have always been dedicated to fostering an environment of dignity, respect, and inclusion. As an organisation deeply committed to making a positive impact on public health, we recognize the importance of a workplace and program spaces free from all forms of harassment. Harassment, in all its unwelcome and intrusive forms, has no place at Anova. It is a violation of our core values, and we are resolute in our pursuit of its prevention and elimination.
What is harassment?
As detailed in our Prevention and Elimination of Harassment Policy, harassment is defined as any unwelcome behaviour that undermines one’s dignity. This conduct is strictly prohibited and unacceptable across at any location or online forum where Anova employees operate and conduct programs.
Forms of harassment
Harassment can manifest in various ways, including:
- Verbal: Offensive comments, slurs, or insults directed at a person based on their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other traits.
- Sexual harassment: Unwanted sexual advances, comments, or behaviours that create a hostile or uncomfortable environment, including sexual comments, requests for sexual favours, or any unwelcome sexual conduct.
- Cyberbullying: Harassment conducted through digital means, such as online harassment, cyberbullying, or trolling, which may involve threats, spreading false information, or using harmful language online.
- Stalking: Repeated, intrusive, and unwanted attention and monitoring of an individual, both online and offline, leading to feelings of fear and insecurity.
- Bullying: Aggressive and repeated behaviour intended to harm, intimidate, or dominate another person, often in school or workplace settings.
The negative consequences of harassment
The detrimental effects of workplace harassment are wide-ranging, impacting not only the individual experiencing harassment but also the organisation. As an organisation dedicated to diversity and serving key populations, ensuring a safe, harassment-free environment for our staff and the communities we support is a priority. Here are some of the negative consequences of harassment:
1. Physical and Mental Health Effects:
- Stress and Anxiety: Harassment can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and panic attacks.
- Depression: Those who experience harassment may experience depression, leading to a diminished quality of life.
- Physical Health: It can result in physical health issues like headaches, digestive problems, and sleep disturbances.
2. Emotional Distress:
- Low Self-Esteem: Harassment can erode an individual’s self-esteem and self-worth.
- Isolation: One may withdraw from social interactions due to fear, shame, or emotional distress.
3. Impaired Job Performance:
- Reduced Productivity: Harassment can affect concentration, focus, and the ability to perform daily tasks.
- Absenteeism: Those who experience harassment may take time off work due to stress or health issues.
- Loss of Job Satisfaction: Job satisfaction often decreases when individuals face harassment.
4. Negative Impact on Career:
- Stalled Career Progression: Harassment may hinder career advancement due to lost opportunities and a damaged professional reputation.
- Resignation or Termination: Survivors may leave their jobs voluntarily or the harasser’s job may be terminated because of harassment.
5. Impact on Relationships:
- Strained Personal Relationships: Harassment can affect personal relationships due to the emotional toll it takes on the survivor.
6. Reduced Workplace Morale:
- Decreased Employee Morale: A workplace where harassment is tolerated can result in low morale among all employees, not just those who experience harassment directly.
7. Negative Organisational Consequences:
- Reputation Damage: Incidents of harassment can tarnish the organisation’s reputation, leading to a loss of trust among customers, clients, and the public.
- Reduced Productivity: A hostile work environment can hinder overall productivity, teamwork, and innovation within the organisation.
8. Loss of Diversity and Inclusion:
- Workplace harassment can deter individuals from underrepresented groups from joining or staying with an organisation, hindering diversity and inclusion efforts.
Links between harassment and gender-based violence
Gender-based violence (GBV) is alarmingly prevalent in South Africa, reflecting one of the world’s highest rates.
The connections between harassment and GBV are profound and multifaceted. Recognising and understanding these links is pivotal to effectively combat these harmful behaviours. Here’s an exploration of how they intertwine:
- Power Imbalance: Both harassment and GBV stem from power imbalances. Perpetrators aim to control and dominate victims, often based on gender, age, race, or social status.
- Gendered Nature: Harassment and GBV often target individuals due to their gender or identity. For instance, sexual harassment primarily impacts individuals based on gender, with women being disproportionately affected.
- Normalisation: Social norms sometimes trivialise or normalise certain mistreatments, making it harder to address these behaviours.
- Similar Forms: Certain types of harassment, like sexual harassment, can escalate into more severe forms of GBV, such as sexual assault or intimate partner violence.
- Psychological Impact: Both harassment and GBV can deeply affect survivors psychologically and emotionally, leading to enduring emotional trauma.
- Fear and Intimidation: Harassment can be a prelude or a method of intimidation, often used in GBV cases to control the victim, causing fear of further violence or harassment, and discouraging reporting or seeking help.
- Overlapping Perpetrators: Some individuals engaging in harassment might also be involved in other forms of GBV.
- Workplace Harassment: Workplace harassment, including sexual harassment, can create hostile work environments, reduce productivity, and result in unequal power distributions, potentially contributing to GBV in the workplace.
- Cyber Harassment: Online harassment, a prevalent form, can escalate to online GBV, targeting individuals based on gender with explicit threats or harassment.
- Intersectionality: Harassment and GBV can intersect with other forms of discrimination and violence, creating compound harm for those experiencing multiple types of mistreatment.
- Trauma: Both harassment and GBV can cause enduring physical and psychological trauma, impacting survivors’ mental and physical health significantly.
Understanding these links is crucial for developing comprehensive strategies to prevent and address these issues. Collaborative efforts among organisations, governments, and communities are necessary to create safe, inclusive environments and support survivors of harassment and GBV effectively. Education, awareness, and legal protections are vital components in effectively addressing these pressing issues.
Confronting workplace harassment isn’t just a legal necessity but a critical ethical and strategic priority for organisations. It’s vital for nurturing a safe, respectful, and productive work atmosphere, safeguarding the well-being and rights of employees, and upholding an organisation’s reputation and core values.
Anova Health Institute remains Uncompromising to all forms of harassment.