How do I know if I am a victim of bullying or sexual harassment?

How do I know if I'm a victim of bullying?

"According to Leymann's classic definition, behavior can be considered bullying when the following four characteristics are present:

  • Personal attacks: The person is directly attacked by one or more colleagues, one or more superiors, or one or more subordinates.
  • Frequent, sustained attacks: Acts hostile to the victim occur at least once a week for a period of six months or more.
  • The attacks cause illness, particularly stress: The victim suffers significant stress accompanied by psychosomatic problems."
  • The attacks place the person in a desperate and coercive situation. The situation seems dead-end. Whatever the person does, her colleagues and  superiors prove her wrong.

(taken from "Mobbing, description et aspects légaux", SECO, 2005)

The following situations involve typical psychological harassment behavior: unjust criticism and smears, ridicule and humiliation, assignment of tasks far below one's skill level, assignment of inappropriately demanding tasks, refusal to assign any task, shunning leading to isolation, attacks on privacy, etc. (Canton of Vaud employment department)

How do I know if I'm a victim of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is behavior resulting from a power relationship. It differs from seduction relationships, which are mutual. Here is a chart for telling whether behavior is harmless flirting, the start of a romantic or sexual relationship between colleagues, or conversely, a case of sexual harassment:


  • develops mutually
  • is constructive and stimulating
  • is welcomed by both people
  • reinforces one's feeling of self-worth
  • is a source of joy
  • makes daily work enjoyable
  • respects personal limits


  • is initiated by only one person
  • is degrading, hurtful
  • is not welcomed by one of the people
  • undermines one's sense of self-worth
  • is irritating
  • poisons the work environment
  • violates personal limits

(taken from "Sexual harassment in the workplace - A guide for employe", BFGE.)