Have you ever experienced sexual harassment, directly or indirectly? I bet you have at one point or the other.

I used to think that it was mostly women that suffer sexual harassment but these days, it seems the men are getting it hot too. Many employees have experienced sexual harassment from their bosses and sometimes, their colleagues even, at one point or the other. You see male boss harassing and threatening the female employee, sometimes, forcing her to sleep with her or lose her job. Or the female boss asking the male employee out, threatening him if he refuses to succumb. In the banking sector for instance, the beautiful, young ladies are used as bait to attract rich customers. May be it took subtle forms with hints and innuendos, verbally and physically, touching and such or it was more brazen in approach, communicated explicitly without mincing words, all are forms of harassment. Whichever method is employed, sexual harassment is often a challenge to manage and overcome.

Sexual harassment is more rampant in private organisations than in public/government establishments. In the private sector, the boss has powers, especially if he is the owner of the establishment. It is easy for them to sack that employee and employ another if he/she does not submit. In some cases, the harassment might even get too much for the harassed that he/she will decide to just quit the job. In a government owned establishment, it is harder for the boss to sack and fire as he/she pleases, the power does not lie solely with the boss.

Sexual harassment can have ripple effects. It is not just the direct individual that suffers but also others around him or her. My colleague narrated his experience in his former office. His boss was interested in his secretary but the girl in question refused but rather seemed to like my colleague who was already aware of the situation between his boss and the lady. He therefore distanced himself from the girl and discouraged any close relationship with her knowing that he might be the one to bear the brunt. The boss believing that the duo was dating would come around encouraging my colleague to go ahead with the lady if he was interested. But the guy would always assure him that he had no interest in the secretary. At a point, the boss began to harass the guy at every opportunity he gets without reason until it became too much for the guy and he quit the job. Imagine losing your job because your boss is interested in someone you are not even dating.

Now, why does sexual harassment occur? It will be easy for the self-righteous to sit back and blame it on the victim, especially if the victim is a female. The way they dress, walk, talk and all that. Granted that some ladies dress anyhow to work, but that is a minute percentage of the people being harassed and we can hardly say that of the men, yet they are harassed too. It is natural for a man to like a lady and vice versa but it becomes an issue when one harasses the other because the person refused. There are many fishes in the ocean I believe, why insist on that particular one? It could be pride, lack of self-control or some other reason which is no reason at all.

The consequences of sexual harassment are numerous, for the victim, the employer, the organization and even the person doing the harassment. The victim can lose certain benefits if not the job itself. He/she might suffer psychological trauma too. The output of such a staff could reduce which is not in the best interest of the organization. It can also bring friction and animosity among the staff and between the staff and the organization. Such a boss or superior loses not just the respect of the person he/she is harassing, but also that of the other staff.

DEALING WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK

There is no cut and dry method of dealing with this issue, in fact, in a private setting, there is very little you can do to stop the harassment because you are working for the individual. But if it is not the employer that is doing the harassing, the victim can take it up with the appropriate authorities, the management, unions, and in the worst case scenario, the court of law. This can also be employed in a situation where the perpetrator is the owner of the establishment though it might not be very effective, but at least, you would have tried your best.

Aside that, you as an employee can work efficiently, be the best in what you do so that it would be hard to sack you on such flimsy reason. The boss or organization would have no option than to retain you against all odds.

Silence is never a solution to sexual harassment because it will probably continue and even get worse as time goes on unless of course you are willing to compromise. Talk to the person harassing you too. Sometimes you would be pleasantly surprised at how effective and powerful words can be. In a calm and mature manner, discuss the issue with the person involved.

If all fails, you can try enduring the situation as best you can until you are able to get another job although there is no guarantee that there won’t be a repetition of same experience especially if you are young, sharp, and beautiful/handsome. Employ wisdom, use delay tactics, feminine/male wiles or whatever trick at your disposal to thwart the unwanted advances.

Another approach is to begin on time to forestall such advances. As an adult, you know your history and past experiences, you also know when someone of the opposite sex is interested in you. Do not encourage it and keep to that stand always, if being friendly with that person will encourage him/her, then desist. Avoid being in a compromising situation with him/her.

If you are the one doing the harassment, I pray you have a change of heart and attitude before nemesis catches up with you. If the person does not want you, go seek the so many other willing and available fishes in the oceans please.

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