What Should I Do If I Feel Mistreated At Work?

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It's not uncommon to find that someone is being mistreated at work and taking the step to do something about it could be difficult. We'll be answering the question: what should I do if I feel mistreated at work?


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While some employees are able to turn the other cheek and ignore mistreatment as a result of discrimination (discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex/gender, age or disability), others may have to deal with being bullied by co-workers or supervisors. Then there are those employees who must endure sexual harassment or worse yet retaliation as a result of reporting unwelcome advances and/or discriminatory treatment.

It is a sad and unfortunate fact that not everyone is treated fairly or equitably.

People who have experienced mistreatment in the workplace can attest to the impact that it has on their quality of life both personally and professionally. In many cases, work becomes so stressful that some people can no longer perform their job duties effectively. Others become depressed, anxious and begin to suffer physically as a result of having to endure any type of mistreatment in the workplace.

There are many different ways in which a person can be mistreated at work. The most common types of mistreatment include being harassed for any reason, being discriminated against based on the person's age, sex, race or disability, and being denied opportunities for advancement based on the same factors.

 In addition to these types of mistreatment, it is also possible that an employee will not receive proper credit for his or her achievements and accomplishments. 

Some examples of discrimination include:

  • Not being hired or promoted based on your race or gender;
  • Being denied pay raises or promotions because of your sexual orientation;
  • Being subject to jokes or ridicule because of your religious beliefs;
  • Being excluded from social activities because you are not a South African citizen.

While it is not always possible to change the culture of an entire workplace, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from unfair treatment and improve your chances of getting a fair shake.

It is not easy to discuss the topic of harassment in the workplace. Bullying can take many forms and can be carried out by both men and women.

If you are being victimised at work, there are steps you can take.

Steps to avoid mistreatment in the workplace

  1. Firstly, identify what happened to you as a problem. If you do not see it as a problem then there is no way that you can deal with it.
  2. Secondly, talk to someone about what is happening - for example, a friend, union representative or colleague that you trust.
  3. Thirdly, find out about your rights and responsibilities as an employee.
  4. Fourthly, decide how important it is for you to stay in your current job and whether there are other options available to you.
  5. Finally, when deciding what action to take consider the pros and cons of each option available to you and which one will have the best outcome for you.

There are also steps you can take directly in the workplace:

  • Report it to your manager
  • Tell the offender directly
  • Talk to your HR department or union representative
  • Use conflict resolution processes in the workplace
  • Take legal action against your employer
  • Leave your job

In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to have legal advice. This is usually only necessary if you have been seriously affected by the situation and/or have suffered from long-term harassment or discrimination. You should seek advice from an employment lawyer who is experienced in workplace harassment and discrimination cases.

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