What if your co-worker isn’t famous? There are also hundreds of blatant and subtle sexual harassment situations occurring every week in workplaces where recipients don’t complain and that are not reported in national news or written about on Internet sites. What happens to these victims?
In cases of repeated harassment and because the recipient can no longer ignore or tolerate the harasser’s behavior, she or he will confront the harasser, reluctantly tell a supervisor or HR, transfer, or even quit. When harassed employees transfer or quit they rarely tell anyone why. Partly because leaving is less anxiety-provoking or scary than confronting the harasser or complaining. This is one of the hidden costs of harassment—supervisors and employers are losing good employees and their knowledge and talent.
Women and men often perceive differently where the line is drawn between welcome and unwelcome comments about appearance and social invitations at work. Examples include non-sexual touching, hugs, and comments about appearance, personal questions, and asking for a date. Though the unwelcome behavior may be more subtle than those alleged in TV news or that we read about online or in newspapers, they are still harmful. Their impacts include discomfort, embarrassment, anxiousness, stress, anger, and feeling stalked. Sometimes the harassed employee will take deliberate actions to avoid the harasser by avoiding work areas, changing work schedule, and not staying late or arriving early.
What can you do if this is happening in your workplace? We have identified a THREE STEP PROCESS to determine if the behavior is harassment.
The Three-Step Process is an objective method for analyzing a behavior to determine whether it has crossed the line and become unwelcome, when the recipient of the behavior has not said, “Stop” or “That is unwelcome.”
The first step is to objectively describe the behavior.
Example – Bill told Denise she was “looking beautiful today.”
Step two is to determine if the behavior is welcome. If behavior is welcome, the person receiving the behavior will equally initiate and participate in the same behavior.
Example - Denise did not comment on Bill’s appearance.
Step three determines if that unwelcome behavior is prohibited by the anti-harassment policy.
You do that by answering the question, “Was the unwelcome behavior directed at the person because of his or her gender?” If the answer is yes, then the behavior is prohibited by the anti-harassment policy. If it is not, it still is probably unwelcome and should stop.
The Three-Step Process, like any behavior assessment model or management technique has exceptions. But it does provide a fairly objective method for recognizing subtle sexual harassment when no one has said, “Stop.”
If you are in a similar situation, talk with your supervisor or another person in management or HR for assistance and guidance on your options for stopping unwelcome behavior.
If you are a supervisor and know about the situation, don’t ignore it!
Perhaps by addressing subtle sexual harassment when it is occurring, we can prevent and stop more blatant sexual harassment.
For more information about our courses and how we are working to prevent workplace harassment and other misconduct please visit www.mycalearning.com.