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I work at a call center. I said something somebody I work didn't like. I was working. They came behind me while working and just kept calling my name and would not leave me alone. I reported this to HR as harassment. HR told me this was not harassment. So, what is the proper word to describe a situation like this?

  • Cascabel is right. It may be that ‘harassment’ is covered by the company’s code of conduct, in which case you need to study it and decide if HR is taking a fair view of the situation. At all events the issue you raise sounds more to me like a legal or quasi-legal one than a matter of English language usage. – Tuffy Jan 27 at 22:24
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I believe that harassment is the correct word.

Here are two of the senses of the Merriam-Webster definition of harass:

1 b (1) : to annoy persistently
// was harassing his younger brother
1 b (2) : to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for
especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct
// was being harassed by her classmates
// claims that the police were unfairly harassing him

From the description of a colleague standing behind you and constantly repeating your name, despite you saying you didn't like—and, presumably, being annoying in a persistent fashion, I would say it was a clear case of harassment based on the English definition of the word.


Having said that, however, the HR department at your company might have a different definition of the word they use as part of their own policies.

If so, a more accurate response could have been:

"We acknowledge that it was harassment in the commonly used sense of the word, but it's unfortunately not something we can act on. Per our policies, actionable harassment is defined as  . . ."

  • +1 agree with you – lbf Jan 27 at 23:17
  • Thank you, I appreciate all responses. This give me very good insight into the matter. – Donna Samec-Ollis Davenport Jan 28 at 19:52
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I would call the behavior of your colleagues DISTURBANCE.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disturbance:

disturbance

: the act of disturbing

: the state of being disturbed

// apologized for creating a disturbance

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