Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

Another hush hush topic in the workplace is the matter of sexual harassment but let’s take a look at this very “touchy” subject.

Let us look at some scenarios and raise your hand if you are so affected

Scenario 1

You are a female, the sole breadwinner with two children. You have been working at Nice& Sweet pastry shop for two years. Mr. H.A Rasser,owner of the business, has indicated that he will be downsizing and he has to release one of the three staff members. He privately tells you that he would want to keep you on staff but that it has to be on a quid pro qou basis. He has gone even further to offer you promotion to supervisor and to sweeten the deal he said he would double your pay. This money would greatly assist with your financial obligations

Would you consider the offer or walk away from the job?

Scenario 2

You are the secretary in a male dominated workplace for six months. Jack Touches is a co worker who is always brushing against you whenever he comes by your desk. You inform him that you are not comfortable with his behavour towards you and that you would appreciate it if he desists. He continues and you report him to the manager who advises you to play along with him or leave.
You have not worked for two years prior to the present job and you really can’t afford to walk away from this descent paying job.

Do you grin and bear it or do you leave the job?

Scenario 3

You are a 22year old male employee whose boss is twice as old. Mrs.Temp Tation has indicated to you that she wants a sexual relationship with you. Being a respectable young man, you refuse her advances. She fabricates a story and recommends your dismissal.

Do you tell the HR manager that this senior manager was in fact making advances to you and that the stories were in fact contrived because your refused to bow to her request. Would the HR manager believe your story?

Would you fight for your right or would the fear of embarrassment drive you away from the job?
I can see those hands you make take them down. The truth is there are many employees who can identify with the above scenarios. Some reluctantly stay in the situation and suffer in silence while others take the bold step and walk away.

Sexual Harassment is defined as the unwelcome sexual advances which the harassed individual finds offensive. The advances can either be overt e.g. touching, pinching, rubbing against the person or covert e.g. sexually suggestive actions/behaviour like winking, sticking out the tongue, winking etc. With the advancement in communication, sending pornographic images via emails and text messaging can also be considered as sexual harassment.

When we face conflicts we can either stay and fight or we flee and run for our lives. The  option you chose is determined by your personal disposition and what you have to lose or gain by the decision you make.

Let’s consider some of the steps you can take if you are a victim of sexual harassment.

  1. State your objections clearly to the harasser. Let him/her know you disapprove of his/her advances
  2. Compile a record of offensive behavior displayed. Save the distasteful email/voicemail/text message for future reference
  3. Be consistent let your verbal communication line up with your non verbal. Don’t send mixed signals
  4. Talk with other victims and together take a stand against this behavior. There is strength in numbers.
  5. Talk to your HR professional and be prepared to fight the case. Don’t be intimidated or humiliated. Speak up! Speak out!
  6. If necessary get legal advice and take legal action, especially if there is a case of wrongful dismissal

Victims off sexual harassment can become traumatized by the experience so much so that they become physically sick resulting in increased sick leave and reduced productivity. Their self esteem would be shattered and they either become quite withdrawn or promiscuous.

Human Resource professionals are urged to establish a sexual harassment policy at the workplace and ensure that it is communicated to every member of staff. He/she should ensure that there is a grievance procedure in place and that the aggrieved person can register his/her complaints in a non threatening environment.

About the writer:
Wayne A. Powell is a Relationship Counsellor. He operates an Online counselling website and blog which provides a convenient way for both client and therapist to engage with each other from home or office at a time that is expedient to them.You can email him at: [email protected]