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One in six people have experienced psychological harassment at work

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A man and woman having a heated discussion with a server in a dining place.

Identified as the most common form of workplace abuse according to the data, people say they have experienced harassment through insults, threats, bullying or intimidation.  

On a regional basis, the highest incidence was seen in Australia and New Zealand where 42% of people reported experiencing psychological harassment, followed by Northern America at 34%. At the other end of the scale, Central Asia was the region with the lowest percentage of people who said they had been affected (3%).

Safe at Work? Global experiences of violence and harassment

Read the report

Comparisons with other forms of violence and harassment

Overall, more than one in five people worldwide (21%) say they have experienced some form of violence and harassment in the workplace during their lifetime. However, the Poll reveals differences between three forms of violence and harassment – physical, psychological, and sexual.

While experience of psychological harassment is most common according to the Poll, physical violence and harassment such as hitting, restraining, or spitting is the next most frequently reported, affecting 7% of people globally. Sexual violence and harassment, such as unwanted sexual touching, comments, pictures, emails, or sexual requests while at work, is reported in the Poll by 6% of people globally.

It is clear from the findings that some forms of violence and harassment are more prevalent than others, but each one requires tailored, corrective actions and interventions. Understanding this data allows policy makers and employers to take relevant action to have a positive impact in the workplace.

Dr. Sarah Cumbers Former Director of Evidence and Insight, Lloyd’s Register Foundation

When people think of violence and harassment, they often think of this primarily in a physical or sexual sense. However, these findings, show that psychological violence and harassment is also a very significant problem in the world of work.

Sarah Cumbers, Director of Evidence and Insight

Multiple experiences of violence and harassment

The Poll findings reveal that more than three in five people (61%) who have experienced psychological harassment say this has happened three or more times, including almost two in five (37%) who have experienced it more than five times.

Multiple experiences of psychological harassment are reflected most heavily in some Western regions, for example 79% of people in Australia and New Zealand and 73% of people in Northern America who have experienced psychological harassment say this has happened three or more times.

Australia and New Zealand also has the highest experience of repeated incidents of physical violence and harassment (72%). While Australia and New Zealand and Northern America have the joint highest experience of repeated sexual violence and harassment (both at 65%).  

Multiple experiences of violence or harassment while at work can have a profound impact on a person’s health and wellbeing1, and also suggest that there is a failure to deal with the issue first time. This is why it is important for employers to ensure that prompt action is taken whenever violence and harassment is reported, including transparent investigation and preventative interventions to stop it from happening again. 

  • 1

    Leon-Perez, Notelaers, Arenas, Munduate, & Medina, 2013; Lutgen-Sandvik et al., 2007

Experience of psychological harassment in the workplace

Have you, personally, ever experienced psychological violence and/or harassment, such as insults, threats, bullying, or intimidation at work?

An infographic show the top and bottom five countries in the world where people have reported experiencing psychological harassment at work. Australia (43%), Finland (39%), New Zealand (36%), Canada (34%) and Greece (34%) make up the top five countries, whereas the bottom five countries are made up of Tajikistan (1%), Pakistan (2%), Armenia (3%), Kazakhstan (3%) and Malaysia (3%).

Download the report

Safe at work? Global experiences of violence and harassment

This report explores individual experiences across countries and demographics around the world. It provides insight for regulators, businesses, governments, communities, and researchers to help them develop relevant policies to prevent harassment. (PDF, 4.73MB)