Understanding the role of power in sexual harassment cases

Understanding the role of power in sexual harassment cases

You may have heard that sexual harassment is about power, not about sex. This is especially important when the harassment or abuse occurs in a workplace. Companies need to distribute power to maintain order and organization. However, this power must be balanced with the needs and safety of their followers.

For those in power at a workplace, it can be confusing to understand why victims might stay silent. For those who are not in a position of power, it can be frustrating to wonder why you don’t feel like you can voice your concerns.

How does power affect leaders?

Good leaders and bad leaders can be easy to remember, but hard to define. Every culture adjusts their expectations of their leaders to fit current beliefs. Leaders must take responsibility for the impact their actions have on their supporters.

The following are observed ways that power affects a leader:

  • Creates social distance that lowers empathy and sensitivity from both leader and follower.
  • Lowers social inhibition.
  • Encourages an echo-chamber where leaders only hear support.
  • Disrupts their understanding of intent versus the real-world impact.

Power affects every individual differently. However, even leaders with good intentions can affect their followers in negative ways. Sticking with tried and true leadership styles might only keep a flawed system in place.

How can power be used to help?

Anyone can help change their company, employees and CEOs alike. If you notice that your company’s model leaves someone vulnerable, you could have the power to make it right. A person who has power can also help their coworkers in the following ways:

  • Be honest about your position’s potential impact on others.
  • Exercise your skills in empathy.
  • Create safe areas for discussion. Include people with different amounts of power than you.
  • Stay up-to-date on new laws and training opportunities.
  • Speak up when you notice something wrong.

When employees or followers do not feel they are able to speak against an injustice, there is little opportunity for change. This creates a system where the vulnerable and the powerful are locked in a cycle that cannot change. However, with a few courageous and kind people, every workplace can improve the way they use power to protect their employees.

Beware of these workplace sexual harassment myths

Beware of these workplace sexual harassment myths

It is unfortunate, but sexual harassment in the workplace still causes confusion - with people of both sexes scrambling to determine how actions are perceived. These misunderstandings can be blamed on the myths that many people still believe without knowing how damaging this can be.

As an employee, you should fully understand what these myths are and why these misconceptions still exist. In 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 6,796 sexual harassment charges which may suggest that workplaces and employers do not fully comprehend what sexual harassment is. Many times, a harasser believes they have done nothing wrong. However, that is not the case. Here are four key myths about sexual harassment that you should know.

4 Key Myths That Must Be Busted

  1. It was just a joke - This explanation is commonly used in the hope that a situation that may have turned tense or uncomfortable can suddenly be explained as a light-hearted comment. Regardless of how an action is interpreted, harassment is harassment and sexual jokes are one of the leading causes of harassment complaints.
  2. You could have stopped the harassment - Victims are often blamed for not doing more to stop harassment that they are suffering. The fact is, victims usually feel intimidated or powerless at the time of the harassment. They may fear losing their job or being retaliated against since the harasser may hold power over them.
  3. They were asking for it - A harasser may say that their actions were brought on because of signals they were getting from the victim. These signals can range from having casual conversations, being nice or how the victim was dressed. Daily workplace behavior should not be used as an excuse to perpetrate harassment.
  4. Sexual harassment does not happen to men - Victims of harassment can be either men or women. If people believe that sexual harassment can come from only one sex, there will be a good chance a male victim will not come forward.

Myths have sneaky ways of finding their way into daily life and becoming a firmly held belief. Unfortunately, many times myths are used to cover-up the truth.

If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment and have been met with any of the arguments listed above, you should contact an attorney who can answer all your questions and be an advocate on your behalf.

Strategies to combat sexual harassment in the workplace

Strategies to combat sexual harassment in the workplace

It’s not your fault. If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, always remember that it’s not your fault. Sexual harassment has gained a great deal of attention lately in the high-profile white-collar world, but this crisis is also prevalent among blue-collar workplaces such as in the hotel and food industries.

The restaurant industry in particular has been notorious for its widespread tolerance of sexual harassment, but this is changing. Still, some of the industry’s workers don’t know what is considered sexual harassment in the workplace or even how to report it.


Signs of sexual harassment

For starters, incidents of sexual harassment can be:

  • Sexually-charged comments
  • Inappropriate stares
  • Unwanted touching
  • Open hostility
  • Verbal abuse
  • Violence
  • Rape and assault

A number of sexual harassment incidents go unreported because victims fear retaliation. In the cases of some workers, their paycheck may be the only one being brought home for the family. They may fear losing their jobs, getting demoted or being scheduled fewer hours.

Strategies for dealing with sexual harassment

Here are some strategies that will help you if ever faced with sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • Confront the harasser if it's safe to do so and assertively tell them to stop his or her behavior.
  • Keep records of what happened. Include the time, location, description of incident, and names of witnesses.
  • Confide in someone. It’s likely that you are not the only victim in this workplace.
  • Follow your company’s guidelines for reporting harassment and seek outside help if your claim falls on deaf ears.

Yes, you will need courage to get through such trying times. There may be struggles. There may be tears, but you eventually will overcome being the victim of sexual harassment. Society is becoming more aware of this problem, and we know that there’s no room for sexual harassment in the workplace or anywhere else.