Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is very common in workplaces. It is generally defined as unwelcome or unwarranted sexual advance. However, not all sexual harassment are sexual in nature. Some are an outright denial of certain rights to an employee on the basis of gender. Although sexual harassment cuts across the board, women turn out to be the most exposed. The harassment can be verbal, non-verbal or physical. Interestingly, the perpetrator can be the employer (company or organization), the boss or fellow employees. You too can be a perpetrator.
It is very important that you know what constitutes sexual harassment at your workplace. This is because ignoring it can have a serious impact on your self-esteem, career, and your family. It can also impact on how you relate to your colleagues. It is also important to note that sexual harassment does not only affect one directly. You are also bound to be sexually harassed when you notice another person undergoing sexual harassment. This is simply because the harassment is most likely to be offensive to you.
The following are the 10 signs of such harassment you need to watch out for at your workplace.
1. Discriminatory Interview Questions
This form of sexual harassment is often perpetrated by employers. You should be able to recognize it during a job interview or in the course of working. The kind of questions asked should not relate to your race, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation. An employer or a panel of interviewers asking such discriminatory questions will simply be harassing you on the basis of your gender.
2. Hostile Working Environment
This is another form of sexual harassment. An employer who exposes you to a hostile working environment is certainly harassing you sexually. Such hostility can be in the form of pictures, art, calendars or drawings on the wall that are demeaning to your gender.
This is the other common form of sexual harassment at workplaces. It is most often perpetrated by a senior employee who intimidates you to submit to his/her sexual demand. This form of sexual harassment is often referred to as the quid pro quo (this for that) harassment. This is because it is often with a promise of a favor, which can be in the form of higher pay or promotion.
Your workplace differs from your regular social media site. The workplace environment requires some level of formality where respect is mutual. This is why you need to consider any form of unwelcome flirting as sexual harassment. It can be perpetrated by anyone at your workplace. Although it may make you happy, it can have serious consequences in the long term. This is particularly true if the perpetrator is your senior. He/she is bound to take advantage of your silence to harass you further.
5. Suggestive Jokes
It is perfectly normal to have conversations at the workplace. It is also normal to engage in healthy jokes once in a while. However, you need to know that you are under sexual harassment when jokes go too far. You need to watch out for jokes that are offensive, demeaning or degrading to you. You may just be under sexual harassment that is bound to have serious implications.
6. Special Assignments
You need to be observant from the moment your supervisor begins to allocate to you special assignments. You particularly need to watch out if such assignments extend beyond normal working hours. This is unless other employees are also involved. Your supervisor may just be setting you up for something bigger. This is outright sexual harassment.
7. Negative/Positive Comments
Any negative comment(s) by a senior or a junior about your dressing or body constitutes sexual harassment. Such comments can be made by a colleague as a way of getting to you. Similarly receiving compliments too often can be a form of sexual harassment. You particularly need to watch out when negative comments are accompanied by untrue facts about your personal life.
There is nothing wrong with gifting at a workplace. A colleague may know it is your birthday and will most likely surprise you with a gift. However, unexplained gifting should alert you of something else in the works. This form of sexual harassment often turns out to be the basis of unwelcome sexual advances.
9. Unwelcoming Physical Encounters
This is often the direct form of sexual harassment. It can be in the form of a simple touch (often to your hair), unwelcome hug, unnecessary patting or outright rubbing of a body part against yours by the perpetrator. It is important that you watch out for this form of sexual harassment because it often leads to rape.
10. Inappropriate Online Communication
While it is good and at times necessary to connect and chat with colleagues online, any form of inappropriate communication constitutes sexual harassment. This can be in the form of personal emails in a suggestive tone, stalking on social media sites and receipt of inappropriate messages or images.
You should never tolerate any form of sexual harassment at your workplace. This is because it is bound to develop into something that you will never be able to handle. It can not only affect your career but your family, relationship, and self-esteem. You always need to watch out for and take note of any form of harassment.
You need to take advantage of the various measures put in place whenever you experience sexual harassment. In addition to reporting to the human resource department, you should report any form of harassment to your superior. You may need to report to your overall boss just in case it is your superior who is the perpetrator.