Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Female Employees Don't Mind Sexual Harassment

A supervisor recently told me that his female employees love the attention that many other women in the workplace would consider sexual harassment. The women in the workplace are young, and they also dish it out themselves. So is it a problem? He thought the media was make too much out of the whole sexual harassment thing.

This supervisor is missing the point, I think. It's true that many workplace behaviors that constitute sexual harassment either by definition or perception by female employees goes unannounced and without formal complaint, but this doesn't mean a charge against the employer won't come tomorrow. There's the rub.

The attention given to this problem legitimatizes the lodging of complaints by employees who have not come forward. And there lies one of the most important reasons to have policy and a complaint procedure in place. There are reasons many employees don't complain. Here are just a few. Which one's do you think are being impacted by recent media and court actions?

The employee doesn't feel he or she will be believed.
They fear some subtle or overt punishment by the employer or supervisor.
They don't trust that management will take action or will listen with an eye toward objectivity.
They don't want to "cause problems."
They may be accused of "wanting it" or "bringing it on."
They cannot provide a accurate accounting of the incident(s).

Often a charge against the employer will not emerge until an employee is terminated for some reason, regardless of the legitimacy of the discharge action. In other words, once a job is lost, many of these reasons in the eye of the victim disappear as roadblocks to lodging complaints.

Okay so the employees aren't complaining. Let's go so far as to say they love it. Are you offended personally? What about the behavior and its affect on the corporate mission? It's values? Any problems there. Of course there is.

You don't need a female worker's complaint to take action. Sexual harassment is not based upon the victim's motivation to file a complaint.