A recent episode of the I Hate My Boss podcast featured Tucker Miller, ELI Vice President of Client Consulting, discussing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. The podcast, hosted by Liz Dolan and Larry Seal, focuses on helping listeners make the big decisions, better sort through the small stuff, and get more fulfillment from their work life. To open the discussion, Miller identified the two types of sexual harassment most often found in the workplace:
1. Quid pro quo: A situation whereby a person in authority may offer something in exchange for another, i.e., a promotion, raise, or bonus in exchange for sexual favors.
2. Hostile workplace: A work environment where someone is engaging in offensive or unlawful behavior that affects the ability to perform a job.
She also reported that 75 percent of workers that experience some form of sexual harassment do not speak up and report it; typically out of fear that it will affect their career or that they will not be believed. Two calls from female listeners relayed situations whereby both found themselves being sexually harassed and made uncomfortable by the language used by a boss or co-worker. Both reported the situations to their HR department, and both were brushed off as non-important. Even worse, one of the women reported that speaking up about the situation followed her career with the company and indeed affected advancement.
Both callers relayed how their situations were ultimately resolved with outcomes that addressed the harassment. Miller explained how choosing to speak directly with the harasser and clearly asking them to stop is a vaild but often overlooked option. The takeaways offered from these scenarios centered on taking the initiative and forcing the issue even when HR did not choose to lead or cooperate.
Examining the company’s obligation
During the discussion, Miller explained how sexual harassment should not be viewed as just an individual action, but rather as an organizational issue. Too often the focus is only on the harasser when the reality is that companies often protect and ignore the issues, thereby enabling and encouraging the bad behavior.
Miller reiterated how solving the problem of bad behavior starts by making civility in the workplace the focus for companies, HR departments, and managers at all levels. Setting professional standards with clear communication is key, and employees must know that speaking up after seeing a line crossed will result in swift and appropriate action.
Listen to the podcast and check out the I Hate My Boss podcast for more information about Sexual Harassment and workplace culture.