How do you deal with psychological harassment at work? How can you identify it, prevent it and what can be done once it happens?

  • 5
    I'm sorry that you think I assumed you were wrong (I didn't). I'm trying to ask leading questions to help you frame your question a little more thoroughly. When someone comes here and says, "my problem is X, what should I do?" it's helpful to know what they've already tried, and what the result was. This way, we can more directly answer your question, instead of giving you suggestions that you've already tried. Even given that clarification, "what should I do?" questions often get closed as opinion based, without edits to add more clarity (what is your desired outcome, etc.).
    – dwizum
    Jan 7, 2020 at 20:59
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    So, you were assigned work you didn't know how to perform, your coworkers took little interest in helping you, they complained to your manager, and your manager complained to you? To characterize that as "psychological harassment" is probably a mischaracterization and a slight bit of exaggeration. You were in a poor work environment with poor collaboration and feedback. That's not unusual, unfortunate as it might be.
    – joeqwerty
    Jan 7, 2020 at 21:13
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    Welcome back to the site Conrad and thank you for answering the comments here. As dwizum said the reason for those is because these types of questions are hard to answer, especially when the situation is already resolved, for better or worse. It can be hard to provide any kind of constructive feedback if the question makes it seem like you're looking for validation of your experience when no one here can do that as we'll never know the details of what happened as well as you. [...]
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 7, 2020 at 21:41
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    That's why we typically default to following your interpretation and focus on addressing the problem. This question would likely be improved by focusing less on the "psychological harassment" and more on tactics for dealing with or escalating lack of onboarding / support. Harassment is a very loaded term that also has a strict legal definition. In most countries being set up to fail like this is horrible management but not actual harassment and so the strategies for dealing with both are usually different. "Was this harassment?" is a question that can be debated but probably not answered.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 7, 2020 at 21:41
  • 1
    Probably not a good idea to post with your real name & photograph
    – Mawg
    Jan 8, 2020 at 6:28

4 Answers 4


I later realized that this is psychological harassment.

Now that I'm aware of it. How do I deal with it in the future?

I feel that your premise that this is psychological harassment is not necessarily true, although I understand that it can be frustrating.

It seems more like a communication problem that was left unattended... Anyways, more important than to tag this situation is on how to deal with it in the future, as you mentioned.

Next time, when you are given a new task or are added to a new team, make sure to ask for a clear account of the technologies/knowledge you must get up-to-speed as soon as you are assigned to that task/team. Do this in writing; an email would be fine.

Each time (if any) your teammates complain you "don't know", politely ask for feedback so you can improve. Make sure you follow-up, so your teammates are also aware that you are learning and improving (perhaps you are improving but your teammates haven't had the chance to notice it).

If your manager complains about you not knowing how to do your work, politely ask why and how can you amend it. If he replies something like "because your teammates told me", then politely ask again why they think so and how can you fix it...

This will either make your manager notice that your teammate's claims are unjustified (ending this negative cycle)... or it will tell you that you work in a place where the manager and teammates have a habit of making unjustified complains/claims (case in which I suggest you think if that is a place you want to work).

  • I quickly looked at the definition: Psychological harassment is vexatious behaviour that manifests itself in the form of conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures characterized by the following four criteria: They are repetitive*; They are hostile or unwanted; They affect the person's dignity or psychological integrity. This happened many times on many different projects and people. Seems like it fits the definition.
    – anon
    Jan 7, 2020 at 21:16
  • Seems like a bad situation... good thing you are no longer in that stressful position. I hope that my suggestions on how to deal with this in the future may help you prevent another incident like this. Just, don't keep it all bottled for years! The moment you start feeling like this again try to address it ASAP, for your physical and mental health
    – DarkCygnus
    Jan 7, 2020 at 21:17

Psychological harassment is not a useful cause

I am not contesting your claim, although I feel it is certainly possible to discuss what is and is not harassment, but that is not the crux of my argument.

The point I am going to try to make, is that assigning an external cause to your difficulties is not useful for you in any way other than that it is comfortable. Assigning an external cause to a problem, takes away any initiative you have or can have on solving the problem. You cannot solve that you are hindered by harassment, only other people can solve that problem for you. And because of that dependancy, the problem will likely remain untill you quit. What you can do is try to find internal causes that ARE actionable. Even with harassment, I am certain you can learn something from a failed project that leads you to improving your next project. But you have to look for it, reflect on it and be willing to change your own behaviour as an experiment to improve. When we assign external causes, we stop looking for other causal factors, we stop reflecting on our own behaviour, and we are unlikely to experiment to improve. Stop assigning external causes to problems - always internalize a problem. What did I do? - look for your own deficiencies, that is where the road to self-improvement lies. Self improvement becomes twice as important when you have a lackluster manager, because feedback is rarely precise enough (and even if it was, usually it is very hard to accept constructive feedback from someone you do not trust).

So, my advice - stop trying to explain what went wrong with external causation. Ask yourself, honestly, what you could have done better. Investigate how others achieve their tasks and see if there is anything you can adopt and learn. Be aware of your own weaknesses the next project and try to understand the link between them and the outcome.

  • +1. I'm a huge fan of internal locus of control. I have a feeling once the OP labeled it as 'Psychological harassment', they stopped considering how they could improve. It doesn't help that this exact question could've been written by two wildly different people: one who's extremely competent but simply doesn't know some company-specific domain knowledge, and one who doesn't know how to do their job at all. Or anywhere in the spectrum.
    – Kevin
    Jan 8, 2020 at 18:37

An important part of any job is letting people know when there are problems. If you can't do a job that your boss has assigned because you haven't been trained or are waiting for an answer from another team, you should warn him.

When you have problems with another team, your boss can help you - but only if he knows. Equally important: if he knows there's a problem, he's going to blame them and not you when the task isn't finished on time.


I suggest:

  1. talk to your supervisor directly to sort out this issue, politely ask him to stop using this kind of language (or write him an email), and tell him that if he continues this kind of communication, you'll write something on his Linkedin

  2. asking questions around sucks - even they encourage it, the only reason to ask questions is to learn, yes, but also to minimalize mistakes - this means it's not your responsibility solely, but somehow this becomes your own problems, that's why it sucks.

  3. Performance reviews shouldn't be one-way, this forces people to work "collaterally" and the ones that don't fit would lose their jobs - which creates fear, nothing really works if fear is the operating force. They never thought what if they are the problems - this is typically manipulative and one way thinking.

  4. If nothing works and it affects you psychologically, don't be too hard on yourself, move on, it's the only way out

  • 2
    I suggest to not use threads like "... tell him that if he continues this kind of communication, you'll write something on his Linkedin".
    – Simon
    Jan 8, 2020 at 6:40
  • Please do not threaten your boss Nothing good can come of it.
    – O. Jones
    Feb 6, 2020 at 11:55

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