Sexual harassment is one of the major challenges that many organizations are facing. This problem has been categorized into non-physical and physical harassment. Non-physical sexual abuse in the workplace involves commenting on the employees’ physical appearance, including the size of their breasts and backside. Physical harassment entails the groping and indecent touching of the victim’s body. Additionally, it may involve attempting to rape the victim within the working premises. While all employees are likely to experience sexual harassment, female workers are at a greater risk of being exploited. Organizations have been fighting to end sexual harassment in the workplace, but several obstacles limit their progress. This paper argues that the challenges that derail the fight against sexual harassment in the workplace are majorly influenced by organizational cultures that encourage and reward sexual harassment.
Challenges Facing Fight against Workplace Sexual Harassment
Addressing workplace sexual harassment is often derailed by an organizational culture that allocates much power to the management. Giving the management much power keeps the employees helpless and dependent on the decisions made by their seniors (Samnani and Singh, 2012) As a result, a gap is created between the workforce and the leadership, making the employees more vulnerable to sexual harassment from their senior leaders. Many leaders tend to use their position of power to direct the junior employees into submitting to their sexual advances. Senior managers tend to threaten their juniors with severe consequences such as low pay, demotion to a lower position, or even dismissal. Victims are often forced to submit themselves and even refuse to report sexual harassment for fear of experiencing these consequences (Samnani and Singh, 2012) Additionally, victims often fail to cooperate with the investigations for fear of retaliation from the suspects, costing them their jobs.
Gender imbalance is another obstacle that derails sexual harassment in the workplace. When most employees are of one gender, workers of the minority gender tend to be vulnerable to sexual harassment. In most scenarios, cases of sexual harassment are often prevalent in organizations where there are more men than women (McDonald, 2012). Such a workplace creates the notion that it’s normal for men to make sexual advances toward women and women to fulfill the sexual desires of men. During investigations, male suspects may be favored because it’s normal to make suggestive comments about women’s sexuality.
Lack of employer action when responding to reports about sexual harassment is a major challenge that has encouraged the continuation of this behavior. Many employees who report their encounters with sexual harassment to their employers are often blamed for their predicament (Samnani and Singh, 2012). Female employees tend to be blamed for their dressing code for wearing clothes that entice men, such as miniskirts. Additionally, female employees are usually blamed for being in isolated environments with male workers, which may encourage men to be aggressive when making sexual advances. One of the main reasons that hinder employers from taking appropriate action towards addressing the issue of sexual harassment is due to the fear of losing their top employees if found guilty. Additionally, maintaining the company’s reputation is often a priority to many employers, forcing them to downplay issues such as sexual harassment that can damage the company’s image to the public.
Solutions to these Challenges
Addressing these challenges requires several steps that target positive individual behavior and a good organizational culture that present a conducive environment for organizations to fight sexual harassment. There is a need to empower employees by giving them a sense of autonomy to make independent decisions in the workplace (McDonald, 2012). Empowering employees reduces management supervision, reducing the power that senior employees have over junior workers. Additionally, the power to make decisions affecting employees should not be allocated to individual leaders, but organizations should create panels and commissions that decide on the fate of employees (Tuc, 2016). These commissions should decide matters regarding employee dismissal, demotion, and salaries to discourage senior managers from using their powers to threaten employees with severe consequences when they fail to submit to their advances.
Organizations should advocate for gender balance in the workforce to reduce the vulnerability of the minority genders to sexual harassment. Gender balance encourages employees to feel safe and confident while in the workplace, making them brave to decline and report cases of sexual harassment (Gloor, 2014) Gender balance gives employees a sense of support they are likely to get from colleagues of the same gender. Thirdly, organizations should have independent commissions that investigate cases of sexual violence instead of letting the employer decide such cases (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2018). Employers may find reasons not to pursue justice for the victims to protect the organization’s interest. These independent commissions should have a gender balance to enhance fairness when investigating and determining cases. Lastly, employees should be trained and educated on their rights and the need to report cases of sexual violence to deter future scenarios.
In conclusion, sexual violence organizational culture plays a significant role in promoting sexual violence. An authoritarian culture where the management has absolute powers discourages the victims of sexual violence from reporting their encounters. Additionally, a gender imbalanced workforce encourages sexual harassment against the minority group. Furthermore, the lack of employer action to protect the company’s interests has discouraged employees from reporting cases of sexual assault. Addressing these problems requires creating awareness to educate the employees on their rights and creating a conducive environment for investigating and settling cases regarding sexual harassment.
Equality and Human Rights Commission. (2018) Turning the tables: ending sexual harassment at work. Web.
Gloor, J. L. (2014) ‘Bullying and harassment in the workplace: developments in theory, research, and practice’, Academy of Management Learning & Education, 13(1). Web.
McDonald, P. (2012) ‘Workplace sexual harassment 30 years on: a review of the literature’, International Journal of Management Reviews, 14(1), pp. 1-17. Web.
Samnani, A. K., and Singh, P. (2012) ‘20 years of workplace bullying research: a review of the antecedents and consequences of bullying in the workplace’, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(6), pp. 581-589. Web.
Tuc (2016) Still just a bit of banter? Web.