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Sexual harassment in the workplaces has adverse consequences on organizations as well as on victims. Sexual harassment interferes with workers’ performance. It creates hostile and offensive work environment thereby reducing victims’ productivity. Similarly, when an employee is sexually harassed in a firm and such a behavior is discovered, both perpetrators of the acts and an organization are usually held liable for damages caused to the victims. In addition, sexual harassment damages organizations’ reputation. This paper examines the definition and forms of sexual harassments, negative impacts of sexual harassment on organizations and measures that organizations can put in place to eliminate it.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual behaviors such as physical contact and advances, request for sexual favors, and negative sexually colored remarks. According to International Labor Organization (2010), verbal or physical sexual acts might involve neck or shoulder massages, a pat on body parts, continuous invitation to lunch, dinner or date despite rejection, unwelcome sharing of sexual experience, spread of nude pictures and, rubbing, hugging, pinching or kissing and forced sexual intercourse. Lunenburg (2010) asserts that victims of sexual harassments in the workplaces can either be a woman or a man while a harasser could be a supervisor, manager or coworker. Similarly, Parumasur (2007) points that a victim must not necessarily be one harassed, but also those affected by such acts. For example, a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace can be employees who missed a promotion opportunity or a coworker who was willing to give sexual favors in return for the promotion. International Labor Organization (2010) cited that sexual harassment could occur when two workers constantly tease with dirty jokes in the presence of others.
Recent researches reveal that the main cause of sexual harassment at workplaces is misuse of power (Lunenburg, 2010). Researcher Lunenburg (2010) states that sexual harassment always concedes power. Similarly, Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape (2011) asserts that the primary objective of harassers in the workplace in most cases is not sex but power. This is because sexual harassments mostly come from supervisors and managers. Supervisors or managers mostly use capacity to reward and control actions of lower-ranking employees. Research by Parumasur (2007) implies that most victims of sexual harassment are forced to deal with unpleasant and humiliating experiences because they do not have any other better choices. However, since junior employees require salary increment, promotions, and lighter duties, they are always tempted to give in to sexual demands from their superiors. Parumasur (2007) further finds junior employees to harass their fellow junior staff. Although it happens in cases when a harasser has some power over a victim. For example, the harassers have confidential information that might have led to expulsion of the victims.
Moreover, most researchers reveal females workers to experience more sexual harassment at workplaces than males; for instance, research by International Labor Organization (2010) in China revealed that over 60% of working women experienced sexual harassment in their workplaces. Similarly, Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape (2011) statistics shows that out of 12, 000 sexual harassment charges that were reported to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010, 83% were filled by women. Lunenburg (2010) believes most managers harass females due to beliefs in traditional gender stereotypes; such as beliefs that women are helpless, passive, and lack career commitment. Male workers thus engage in sexual harassments to gain more power over their female colleagues. Parumasur (2007) also cited that women were more susceptible to sexual harassment at their workplace because they are mostly clustered around job categories that are traditionally associated with females such as nurses, teachers, and secretaries.
Similarly, women tend to be employed in low ranking positions thus leave vital work decisions including hiring, promotion, and formulation of work policies for men. Parumasur (2007) argued that women were less represented in the executive positions thus have weaker positions when it comes to the implementation of sexual harassment policies. However, McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone (2012) found that even women in higher ranking positions were sexually harassed by their juniors. McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone’s research (2012) further indicated that several female supervisors were questioned about their ability to supervise others.
Whenever any irresponsible sexual acts are committed in the workplaces whether in government or private institutions, victims are often left humiliated and might have health and safety problems. Paramasur (2007) explains that human capital is an “integral ingredient for organizational effectiveness” (p.1). However, the relationship is often compromised by the spread of sexual harassment in the workplace. This is because victims of sexual harassment experience various emotional reactions including humiliation, self-doubt, self-blame, loss of self-confidence, anger, and depression. International Labor Organization (2010) cites that in most cases, victims of sexual harassment suffer from health complications such as headaches, backache, vomiting, high blood pressure, change in weight, and fatigue. Consequently, the victims’ interests are withdrawn from an organization. Lunenburg (2010) notes that harassed workers come to work late, avoid certain duties, and even resign. Moreover, the victims develop negative attitudes towards their supervisors and coworkers. Lunenburg (2010) asserts that employees often find it hard to perform as expected whenever they realize that sexual harassment is evident.
In addition, sexual harassments can lead to rise in both staff turnover costs and employee compensation. Booland (2006) explained that firms lost millions of dollars in lawsuits involving sexual harassments. Booland (2006) further cited that sexual harassment cases cost the United States federal government more than $ 300 million while private business lost more than $ 1 billion annually due to the same, in the 1990s. For instance, Del Laboratories paid over $1 billion as sexual harassment claims. Chevron paid $ 2.2 million to four women for retaliation for filing sexual harassment claims, and Mitsubishi paid $ 34 million to several women in different sexual harassment cases (York, 2006). However, such costs did not include lost career opportunities. Like in a case when employees with the best qualities are denied promotion opportunities, but instead gave such chances to less skilled workers because they offered sexual favor to a boss. The staff might resign and seek for employment in other organizations where their talents would be appreciated. However, International Labor Organization (2010) asserted that since labor supply was often in surplus, it was difficult for such victims to secure new employment opportunities hence sexual harassment jeopardized victims right to living. Moreover, the images and reputation of firms that lose sexual harassment cases are often damaged thereby resulting into even bigger impacts on the firms. Wright (2010) noted that when sexual harassment issues arose in workplaces especially in leading corporations such as government owned firms; the cases are often made public.
It is possible to eliminate sexual harassments in the workplace. Analyzing statistics and researches, sexual harassments in the workplace have been rising due to reluctance of both managers and victims in curbing the behavior. York (2010) explained that most organizations assumed that by sensitizing employees on sexual harassment issues, more complaints could be forwarded to an organization than when the issues were not mentioned. According to York (2010), key elements of combating sexual harassment in the work place are taking proactive measures. As such, some positive approaches that an organization can initiate and implement to maintain work environment that is free from sexual harassment include conducting prompt investigations and establishing a no tolerance policy and clear procedures for filling complaints.
Most harassers take advantage that their victims are powerless. Such persons can be empowered by teaching them on their rights. Booland (2006) believed that a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment was the only solution to the problem. Lunenburg (2010) pointed that, through anti-sexual harassment policies, employees become aware that their employers forbade sexual harassments, discrimination, and retaliation. Parumasur (2007) suggests that management of sexual harassment in the workplace calls for developing cultures that emphasize on both ethical and standard code of conduct. The studies found that factors such as inappropriate dress code, lack of mutual respect in terms of language and behavior also contributed to prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, through suitable sexual regulatory policies, all employees would have equal powers in handling sexually related issues. Parumasur (2007) argues that appropriate sexual policies mean that supervisors are not accorded the entire power to make decisions on matters that facilitate sexual harassments such as promotions and salary increments. Similarly, York (2010) asserts that cohesion of a company is largely dependent on the company’s corporate culture. In other words, cultures that promote harmonious inter-personal relations are vital in creating safe and sound work environment.
Some employees shy away from reporting harassment cases due to bureaucratic procedures involved in filling the complaints. International Labor Organization study indicates that only 34.4% of the victims filed complaints with their companies’ human resource departments. Thus, making it easy for employees to file complaints would significantly reduce sexual harassments in the workplace. Lunenburg (2010) believes organization could make it easy for employees to file sexual harassment complaints by selecting someone outside employees’ chain of command to hear the cases. International Labor Organization (2010) supports Lunenburg’s assertion considering the fact that most sexual harassment cases are unpunished because the same managers who harassed their junior employees are assigned to handle discipline cases within the organizations. Similarly, Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape (2011) argues that supervisors are often more educated hence more knowledgeable on legal consequences of sexual harassments. As a result, they are more likely to manipulate their subordinates who are usually ignorant on the sexual harassment issues.
By conducting thorough and prompt investigations, workers who harass others sexually would be brought to justice thereby setting examples to other employees who might opt to harass other workers. Lunenburg (2010) notes that prompt and objective investigation is a means of communicating to the culprits of sexual harassments that their behavior has serious consequences. Wright (2010) attributes rise in sexual harassment cases in Australia to loop holes in legislative procedures that are followed in handling such cases. According to Wright (2010), failure of organizations to teach their members on their rights impedes the justice process. In addition, organizations should organize for informal resolution between parties by explaining to both parties the impacts of sexual harassment on both organization and themselves.
Overall, sexual harassment within work premises is detrimental to both organizations and victims. Therefore, such vice should be addressed with urgency. An effective strategy to curb the harassments is to implement inclusive sexual harassment policies, which clearly define procedures for prevention management and reporting cases of sexual harassment whenever they occur in the workplaces. However, sexual harassment policies alone are insufficient to curb the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplaces. Organizations should ensure that they create an enabling environment by raising awareness on the consequences of sexual harassment in the workplaces and further handling the reported cases with due care.