In our society, there is a widespread opinion that a certain degree of harassment or violence can be tolerated by employees, especially for female employees.

Elona Dhembo

 Whenever attention is directed to issues of violence and harassment, in addition to the problem itself, their underreporting is of great concern. This has been a constant finding also regarding harassment and violence at work. Workplace violence and harassment are not new phenomena and no sector of the economy is immune to them.

A 2021 study, by CLR (Center for Labor Rights), focused on 6 strategic sectors of the economy: public administration, education, health, hospitality-tourism, fashion, and the call-center sector. With a national survey with 1538 respondents, as well as discussions in focus groups and interviews with employers (45), evidence was generated that confirmed the spread and gave shades of the complexity of the problem in our country.

The findings showed that violence and harassment at work are considered widespread phenomena throughout the country, and that the problem is deeply gendered, where female employees are perceived as more vulnerable to violence and harassment. They are perceived in most cases as physical gestures, attempts to touch and physical harassment. Verbal violence ranks second, with women showing a slightly higher sensitivity compared to men. The combination of all forms of violence is again reported more by women than by men.

In our society, there is a widespread opinion that a certain degree of harassment or violence can be tolerated by employees, especially for female employees. Some manifestations or forms of harassment or violence are defined as “unacceptable”, such as physical violence, while others such as verbal violence are more “tolerable” or even “acceptable”, creating a culture that conditions employees who to accept / tolerate certain behaviors.

Most often, violence and harassment are encountered in relationships of dependence such as superior-subordinate or employer-employee. The highest incidence is reported in the education sector (62%) and the call-center sector (55%). In healthcare, another form of violence is more often encountered, that of violence by outsiders against employees of the institution (62%). This form of violence is also worrying for the hotel-tourism sector (51%), or even for the public administration (48%). The highest incidence of violence between opposite sexes is reported in the call-center sector (61%), while that between colleagues of the same gender is reported in the fashion sector (40%).

A distinguishing feature of the phenomenon of harassment or violence at work is the reluctance of those who suffer or witness it to speak and consequently not to report it. The vast majority of employees questioned (84%) perceive that there are more cases of violence and harassment than those that are reported. The low level of reporting comes from a multitude of factors, ranging from the different perceived levels of harassment or violence experienced (or their normalization), to the availability and effectiveness of the reporting mechanism/system in the workplace, to the attitudes or reactions of the employer and/or colleagues to the case and compromising work relations as a result.

The employees list as the most effective measures in preventing cases of violence and harassment at work the sensitization and awareness campaigns, the improvement of the legal and regulatory framework, followed by stricter regulations in the workplace. Most employees feel that their employers should receive knowledge and skills to set up and manage systems to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace. They see as effective the application of heavier punishments for perpetrators/bullies and the provision of support and protection for victims, as well as reporters and witnesses. The common denominator seems to remain the need for cooperation between state institutions, employers and employees, as well as their respective organizations in a more intensive way, with a better-coordinated and comprehensive approach to prevent, address and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work.


Elona Dhembo is prof. and assoc. at the Department of Labor and Social Policy, University of Tirana