Sexual harassment is perceived as unsolicited sexual advances either in the form of physical conduct of a sexual nature, or verbal requests for sexual favors. In most cases, sexual harassment has the intention of unreasonably disrupting a person’s work performance or making an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working atmosphere. However, it’s worth noting that sexual harassment is characterized by unacceptable behavior and not by impulsive behavior. A victim of sexual harassment might give consent or become an active participant of a particular action, although it is offensive and disagreeable. Hence, whenever a sexual conduct subjected to an individual is unwelcomed, it is regarded as sexual molestation. It depends on the circumstances whether a person in question welcomed a request for a date, condoned comments and jokes of sexual nature. Sexual harassment at workplaces has become rampant in the society.
Employees are exposed to numerous types of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can assume many conformations. It can be classified as physical, verbal or nonverbal forms of coercions. Physical forms of sexual harassment may include: standing very close or brushing up against another individual, giving a massage around the shoulders or neck, hugging, kissing or touching a person’s body sexually. Verbal sexual harassment forms in the workplaces may include incidents such as:
- a manager blackmailing an employee to sleep with him/her in order to sustain or gain promotion,
- employees receiving comments and jokes that include sexually explicit language,
- employees turning work discussions to sexual topics by asking their colleagues about sexual history or making comments of sexual nature about a co-worker’s body and anatomy.
Nonverbal sexual harassment forms may include:
- making sexual gestures and sexual dramatization through body movements,
- making facial expressions such as winking or throwing kisses to fellow workmates (Mainiero, & Jones, 2013).
Sexual harassments at workplaces are not limited to a particular gender; both men and women have equal chances of being subjected to sexual molestation. Nonetheless, research reveals that most of the sexual molestation claims are brought by women alleging that they were sexually molested by men. According to research, in 2014 about 66% of female restaurant workers claimed to be sexually harassed by their supervisors. About 70% of men and 80% of women reported sexual harassment by their co-workers in different settings of workplaces in 2014. Scholars reveal that within the last decade, the susceptibility of women to sexual harassment has increased due to the surge in the number of women entering the workforce. Statistics shows that 12% of women receive threats of contract termination if they failed to comply with the requests of their sexual predators. In a recent survey done in 2015, the results reveal that 1 in 3 working women asserted to have been sexually harassed at work at one point in their career. About 1 in 10 working women reported having been sexually harassed by a female perpetrator. The most common sexual predators are male co-workers, supervisors, and clients. Furthermore, the research indicated that about 3 in 4 sexual harassment claims at workplaces go unreported (McDonald, & Charlesworth, 2015).
Sexual harassment at workplaces has several strengths that offer immunity to excuse the unprofessional behavior. Firstly, most of sexual harassment incidences often go unreported due to fear of retaliation by the perpetrators. Most victims prefer to suffer in silence than broadcast their problems of sexual harassment due to fear of being fired in return. Scholars reveal that more than 70% of sexual harassment victims endure their suffering in silence. Sexual predators often use coercion or blackmail as a security to promulgate their sexual advances towards their co-workers. The immunity offered by such threats and blackmail ensures that the perpetrators walk scot-free from their offensive behaviors. In most cases, sexual harassment perpetrators threaten to terminate employment or make employee’s life miserable in the workplace if they fail to comply with their requests. Consequently, most victims of sexual harassment decide to protect their jobs by yielding to the demands of their perpetrators. Furthermore, gender inequality has augmented sexual harassment practices at workplaces. The widespread stereotyping of men being better than women has facilitated sexual objectification of women. It is not surprising that women are required to perform sexual favors for men so that they secure a job or gain a promotion (McDonald, & Charlesworth, 2015).
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Secondly, non-verbal and verbal sexual harassment has inbuilt immunity since it is quite difficult to pinpoint. Besides, sex-based jokes have increased prevalence in usage in the contemporary world. Therefore, most victims overlook non-physical sexual harassment and perceive it as being insignificant. Moreover, personal shame compels many victims to remain silent about sexual harassment experiences at workplaces (McDonald, & Charlesworth, 2015).
Sexual harassment poses several problems in the workplace. Firstly, like other types of violence, sexual harassment can endanger a victim’s emotional and mental health. It destroys the self-esteem of an individual and induces a broad range of stress-related complications such as anxiety disorders, hypertension, and depression. Both the physical and emotional well-being of a person is compromised. Loss of confidence triggers withdrawal, isolation, and suicidal thoughts in the victims. In extreme cases, victims of sexual harassment might lose their jobs and career paths when they fail to comply with the sexual advances of their predators (McDonald, & Charlesworth, 2015).
Secondly, sexual harassment can lead to reduced productivity of employees due to loss of morale. Furthermore, it can cause increased absenteeism of employees because of their efforts to evade harassment, or due to illnesses. Hence, sexual harassment at workplaces can cause losses for a firm. Besides, reported cases of sexual harassment can tarnish or damage the reputation of a particular company. A company’s reputation is defined by the consumer’s confidence in the enterprise. Reported cases of sexual harassment at organizations destroy the consumer’s confidence in those firms. As a result, their market share decreases, and ultimately their profit margin declines (Maass, Cadinu, & Galdi, 2013).