Many companies put a sexual harassment policy in place and think that’s enough. Unfortunately, people need to learn how to identify various forms of sexual harassment in order to report it. We must discuss preventing sexual harassment in the workplace to provide people with an open space to discuss these issues.
Implement a Zero Tolerance Policy
Companies must adopt a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment. Most companies also provide anti-harassment training as it is required by law; however, many companies do not actually enforce a zero tolerance policy. These policies must be enforced so that everyone feels safe, supported, and happy in the workplace. When organizations support their employees, they are able to perform at their best to produce high quality services and products.
Identify the Different Types of Sexual Harassment
In order to spot sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s important to learn about the different types of sexual harassment:
Examples of visual harassment include:
- Inappropriate pictures or drawings shared either online or offline
- Obscene emails or texts
Sometimes these things are shared due to unconscious bias and people do not realize what they’re sharing is inappropriate or offensive. People do not learn these behaviors on their own, they are repeating behaviors they have encountered before.
Then, there is verbal harassment. Many people get away with this one if excuses are made for them. “That’s just how he is” or “She’s just having a bad day” are examples of protecting someone’s fragility at the expense of others.
Examples of verbal harassment include:
- Requests for sexual favors including threats for the consequences of saying no.
- Spreading rumors of other’s sex lives
- Jokes or remarks aimed at marginalized groups in order to put them down
- Commenting on someone’s appearance
When verbal harassment occurs, often the victim’s feelings are discarded if they report it. They’re often told they “misunderstood” which is a form of gaslighting and is very harmful to victims of any type of harassment.
The third type of sexual harassment is physical harassment. This is often not reported when it’s done in private and there’s no proof.
Examples of physical harassment include:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual gesturing and staring
- Unsolicited touching including kissing, stroking, and rubbing
- Blocked movement such as cornering someone or not allowing someone to leave a room.
Physical harassment is the most blatant form of harassment. It is beyond me why some people think these behaviors are appropriate in live, let alone in the workplace.
Reporting Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation. While sexual harassment is most often aimed at women, it can happen to all genders.
If you are a victim or witness to sexual harassment, you need to say something. Anyone has the right to file a formal complaint but people often ignore it for fear of losing their job. Organizations need to show that they do not tolerate sexual harassment by taking action when their zero-tolerance policy is violated. When left unchecked, offenders will continue exhibiting offensive behaviors and encourage others to do the same which just breeds more offenders.
Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Courses on Pluralsight
I teach diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace in several of my Pluralsight courses: Increasing Mental Health Awareness for Improved Inclusiveness, Managing Technical Professionals, and Launching Successful Teams. These courses include animated scenario-based training following the same cast of characters from course to course as they learn to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Visit my Pluralsight author page to get started with these courses today!