Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new, but it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The explicit or implicit use of inappropriate promises and sexual overtones in return for sexual favor can occur in various social settings like schools, churches, homes, and even workplaces. Sexual harassment is defined as any form of verbal or physical sexual gesture, unwelcome sexual advances, behavior, glances, obscene languages, comment, teasing, unwanted touching, lewd acts, or request for sexual favor considered inappropriate and offensive to the next party.
Sexual harassment may come from people in higher positions at your workplace, including managers, directors, supervisors, co-workers, or even customers. Most of these harassers do not feel they are doing anything wrong until when told. Others do it intentionally either with promises of elevating work status.
Although sexual harassment affects both genders, the female gender tends to suffer more from this immoral act, with the perpetrators being mostly men at the workplace. Generally, the aim is to assert dominance and power over their female counterparts, and they won’t mind being aggressive about it.
Effects of sexual harassment in the workplace
Just as sexual harassment affects individuals at home, school, or church, it also affects those in the workplace. As such, the effect of this societal ill is noticed in the victims and the organization they work for:
1. Decreased productivity: Working in an environment filled with hostility, discrimination, and harassment is not what anyone wants. Sexual harassment brings about anxiety, decreased performance, gossip during working hours, stress, low morale amongst employees leading to a decrease in the organization’s productivity, and making employees quit their jobs.
2. Professional complications: Sexual harassment can lead to many professional issues both on the part of the employee and the organization. The victim’s career or job may be thrown into jeopardy, resulting in adverse decisions such as being fired, quitting, and demotion.
When a person is being harassed by either a co-worker or a superior, it distracts them as they are not emotionally balanced. This can make them neglect their duties, be absent from work or absent-minded during work hours, delay, and withdraw from associating with other co-workers.
3. Emotional issues: Sexual Harassment affects individuals emotionally, especially when they cannot speak out or report to authorities. This can make them go through debilitating stress, anxiety, loss of self-confidence its self-esteem, and depression. Once a person is emotionally disturbed, it affects their physical health and appearance, leading to weight loss, sleeping disorder, lack of appetite, high blood pressure, and headache.
4. Negative impact on the company’s brand: Most employees treated unfairly or sexually harassed at their workplace tend to discourage consumers from patronizing their former employer. Also, Consumers tend to make negative generalization when they are aware of any form of harassment, hostility, or discrimination in an organization.
5. Bad reputation: Once your company has been involved in any sexual harassment case, you would be tagged with a bad reputation. Imagine being filed with a lawsuit due to failure on the organization’s part to handle sexual harassment cases amongst employees.
This would make the organization lose a lot of money and, at the same time, accord them a bad reputation. It would be challenging to find new employees to replace old ones who quit their jobs because no one will see that organization in good limelight.
What to do about sexual harassment in the workplace
Sexual harassment and its effect can pose a lot of danger to your organization. Therefore, to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in your organization, you need to be proactive and take the following steps:
Understanding sexual harassment
The first step to curbing sexual harassment is to ensure that all employees know and understand what sexual harassment means and the various forms of sexual harassment. This will enable them to desist from any act or language involved.
Implementation of strict office policies
As an organization’s owner, it is essential to implement a zero-tolerance and easy-to-understand policy towards sexual harassment. Ensure that your workers know that there will be consequences for any perpetrator, not minding their position in the organization.
Have your company attorney implement these policies
Before implementing these policies, your company’s attorney must be notified to ensure that the policies align with state and federal laws. Also, ensure they are clearly defined and includes the procedure for reporting, investigating, and resolving harassment issues.
Build a culture
Building a culture of professionalism will help curb the menace of sexual harassment in an organization. There will be no room for sexual gestures and demeaning comments during work hours with such cultures in place. Implementing a respectable workplace culture can help curb sexual harassment.
Aside from the employer or owner of an organization putting things in place to ensure no room for sexual harassment, the employees also must report immediately. This is especially effective when they notice any form of inappropriate behavior towards them by a co-worker or a superior.
Organize training for managers/supervisor
The managers and supervisors are in charge of managing an organization; therefore, it is expected of them to be of impeccable character. They should be adequately trained to identify harassment, respond to complaints, and handle sexual harassment cases.
Ensure everyone understands the process
You can organize training and seminars for employees on sexual harassment to tell them of the company’s zero-tolerance policy, orienting them on what to do if they are sexually harassed in the organization. Ensure everyone understands the process of reporting or relaying a complaint.
Attend to complaint immediately
Separate training for supervisors and managers should be organized to teach them how to handle sexual harassment cases. They should also be trained on the urgency of investigating a report immediately. If the complaints are not attended to, and the perpetrators aren’t dealt with, the company policy would lose its credibility.
The human resource department should organize training and awareness programs for all staff with mandatory attendance. Training should be divided so as not to inconvenience employees. Employees should understand the need for this training and the implemented policy. Each level of employees should have their training, and a copy of the companies policy should be distributed to each employee.
Set an example
All leaders and superiors are expected to set good examples for their subordinates. Calling out harassment when they see one and staying committed to resolving harassment issues will make their sub-ordinates adhere strictly to the company’s policy on sexual harassment.
Just as the organization owner is expected to be proactive on harassment issues, victims need to go for counseling and possibly see a therapist to deal with trauma properly.