We Singaporeans are among the world’s hardest working. Most of us spend almost a third of our adult lives at work. This makes workplace issues such as harassment, bullying, poor job fit, inability to cope with work demands, interpersonal conflict and communication problems a common source of stress among many people.

Dr John, President of the Singapore CoCNA Interview Workplace Harassmentunselling Centre, was invited to Channel News Asia to share with us on the issue of workplace harassment. The Singapore Counselling Centre used to see an average of 2 to 4 workplace harassment cases but in recent years, it has gone up steadily and we are seeing now an average of between 5 to 9 cases a month. What is workplace harassment and how can it impact you? Find out more below!

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment refers to when one party at the workplace demonstrates behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another party.

Examples of behaviour that may be harassment include:

  • Verbal Behaviour – Threatening, abusive or insulting language, comments or other non-verbal gestures. Online bullying includes sending nasty texts and emails to a subordinate or a colleague.
  • Acts of Hindrance and Sabotage – Unreasonable work interference like sabotaging, withholding of information and resources that are necessary for a worker to fulfil the expectations of the job. The purpose of which is to hinder and even sabotage the worker through false accusations and exaggerations of mistakes.
  • Sexual harassment – Insulting, abusive or threatening words of a sexual nature meant or likely to cause feelings of harassment, alarm or distress. Read more about it here. 

How prevalent is workplace harassment today?

According to an online study conducted, nearly one in four workers in Singapore believe themselves to to be victims of workplace harassment.

Has SCC seen more cases of workplace harassment over the past few years, or fewer?

The Singapore Counselling Centre used to see an average of 2 to 4 workplace harassment cases a month but in recent years, it has gone up steadily and we are seeing now an average of between 5 to 9 cases a month.

How does it affect a victim at work and beyond the workplace?

  • Psychological Impact – At the workplace, the victim will experience low morale with an obvious waning enthusiasm for the work. With unabated harassment, the victim will experience a deterioration of mental health including depression, irritability, uncontrolled mood swings, anger management issues and even anxiety issues.
  • Impact on physical wellbeing – Victims can experience headaches, migraines, issues with the digestive system, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and more. With all the negative stress and pressure, some victims can even experience heart attacks, poor quality of sleep, and even insomnia.

Impact beyond the workplace

The negative impact of work harassment will affect the personal life of the victim. Victims can experience sleeplessness, and become increasingly withdrawn and unfriendly.

Why is it hard for victims at work to speak out?

Victims often find it hard to speak out because they could be made to believe that it is their fault for fear of receiving a poor job appraisal. They are fearful of losing their jobs especially when the jobs are harder to come by. They could be made to believe that workplace harassment is part and parcel of the company culture, and that they have to accept it.

What are the avenues victims can go to for help?

  • The Ministry of Manpower
  • AWARE helpline for women in crisis – for women needing help on sexual harassment
  • Harassment within and outside the workplace is an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), which is under the Ministry of Home Affairs. POHA protects you for harassment and related anti-social behaviour through criminal sanctions, and also provides a range of self-help measures and civil remedies for victims of harassment.

Are you a victim?

Are you dealing with challenging issues at your workplace? Are certain work-related problems affecting your mental health? Make an online request for an appointment with our professional counsellors for ways to resolve your workplace issues. Take that step to create a healthy and enriching work environment for yourself!

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