Since the #MeToo movement, both employers and employees are more aware of sexual harassment in the workplace. One of the messages that the social movement made clear was that those who engage in sexual harassment need to be held accountable for their behavior. Many employers responded with more stringent policies, more promptly investigated harassment claims and more clear repercussions for violations. Many have instituted new employee training and preventive policies as well. Yet policies aren't enough without more. Employers should also watch for warning signs that indicate a work culture is prone to sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment Warning Signs:
- Corporate Culture Accepts or Supports Harassing Behavior: The social norm in a workplace may either encourage harassment or discourage sexual harassment. Each individual has characteristics and life experiences that leave them with pre-existing beliefs, opinions and attitudes that could justify/rationalize inappropriate behavior like sexual harassment. When individuals with tendencies towards sexually harassing behavior are introduced to a workplace where role models behave professionally, where sexually harassing behavior is not supported by the workplace climate, and where misbehavior results in strong consequences, their tendency to harass is more likely to be suppressed. When they are introduced into a corporate culture that either accepts or supports harassing behavior, their tendency may be amplified.
- Male Dominated Workplaces: Studies show that workforces that are heavily male dominant are often prone to sexual harassment in the workplace, though sexual harassment is in no way limited to male-dominated environments.
- Male Dominated Leadership: The same pattern is apparent in companies or organizations with male-dominated leadership.
- Drastic Hierarchical Structures: Organizations and companies with significant power differentials between the various levels frequently see higher rates of sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Tolerance of Subtle Harassment: Another warning sign that a workplace may be prone to sexual harassment is when the employer, management or overall employee-base is accepting toward subtler forms of gender harassment, such as jokes that negatively portray one gender, or sharing of explicit material between co-workers.
- Drinking on the Job: When employees in the workplace are heavy drinkers and/or indulge in unrestrained drinking during work events, the likelihood that sexual harassment will be a problem increases significantly.