Not All Sexual Harassment Is Equal

By February 7, 2018 No Comments

While allegations of sexual harassment past and present continue to grow, most attention has been on public figures in Hollywood, sports, politics and the tech industry. We read about huge payouts, firings and suspensions.

But if all you knew about sexual harassment was the first page of an Internet search, you might miss the impact that sexual harassment has on retention, productivity and profit in the everyday workplace.

According to a recent study by Heather McLaughlin, Christopher Uggen and Amy Blackstone, 80 percent of women who participated in their research who had been sexually harassed changed jobs within two years. Women who were harassed were 6.5 times more likely to change jobs than those who had not been.

You also might miss the impact harassment has on morale, absenteeism and workplace collaboration. If you only focus on the lawsuits, you might miss the psychic, emotional and physical impact that sexual harassment on those who have been subjected to harassment.

As the numbers add up, we have to remember the everyday people who continue to have to deal with harassment and recognize that years of sexual harassment training alone is not the only solution.

Sexual harassment, bullying, inappropriate comments are all serious and need to be stopped.

Egregious behavior should have consequences — but not every situation is equal.

Does every inappropriate action or comment warrant firing, shaming or suspension?

If we treat every instance the same, then we risk what one of my clients calls “creating a workplace of fear and unspoken tension, gender silos and where people are afraid to talk to someone of a different gender.” Another client told me one of her employees asked to be transferred because a male colleague made her uncomfortable, but she didn’t want the person fired, so she just wanted to change jobs. That employee shouldn’t have to change jobs or be uncomfortable, but the situation needed resolution.

My client asked for my advice and I shared some alternative solutions. The male colleague needed education. We were able to resolve the issue through discussion. Both kept their jobs and we enlisted the male colleague to educate others.

We need everyone who cares about harassment and creating a workplace where  people of any gender, sexual orientation or any other group can be comfortable, supported and participate without fear.