Sexual harassment in workplace can bring down entire organization, says new study

Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington shows how sexual harassment in a workplace can bear massive consequences.

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Sexual harassment in the workplace is a continuing problem and like cancer, it spreads gradually thus killing the healthy workplace environment. Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington revisited sexual harassment issues after the first study, that was conducted almost 20 years ago.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) defines workplace sexual harassment as an unwelcome sexual advance which interferes and hampers a person's job by creating a hostile, intimidating and offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can range from sexual jokes to inappropriate touching. It poses a mental turmoil as well for both female and male workers.

James Campbell Quick, the John and Judy Goolsby-Jacqualyn A. Fouse Endowed Chair in UTA's Goolsby Leadership Academy, published their first report in 1998 in the special section on sexual harassment in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

After 20 years, the researchers have unearthed mixed responses. Although there has been a 28 percent decline in the rate of sexual offences in a workplace, instances of sexual advances towards employees, be it male or female has not been terminated completely.

At a time when the American society is saturating with complaints of sexual harassment in schools, workplaces, at regular junctures in life and even Hollywood where renowned faces like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey haven't been spared, analysis on the same was required.

The review was conducted by Quick and M. Ann McFadyen, a UTA associate professor of strategic management earlier in 2017.

Quick states that sexual harassment is a continuing occupational problem where "there has been progress on some fronts but not on others and the problem has morphed, becoming more complicated for a variety of reasons found in the current data."

Sexual harassment poses a threat to a healthy workplace environment

According to the study, sexual harassment can impose negative consequences in the workplace. Researchers suggest that both workforce and workplace are correlated. According to McFadyen, the behaviour affects not only the victim but the organization as a whole, reports EurekAlert. It tarnishes reputations, affects the trust factor amongst the workers, creates depression, stress, initiates eating disorders, thus affecting the victim's health and eventually leads to death.

Sexual harassment can be curbed in workplaces

McFadyen suggests that concern regarding sexual harassment signals a change which is much required in the workplace environment, precisely a different type of training for the whole organization.

Not only leaders and the management but all the employees at all ranks, including customers, suppliers and stakeholders should be given the training in order to increase awareness on the same and focusing more on the consequences of sexual harassment that can bring down the whole organization.

Apart from the training, the workplace should be well-equipped with surveillance systems to prevent unwanted situations.

Sexual harassment and how it's an occupational health psychology problem

Antonio Puente, the American Psychological Association president, with the help of the Quick-McFadyen report established the fact that sexual harassment in the workplace is more of a health psychology problem. Psychological analysis on the same provides an insight into this typical behaviour and how it can be prevented.

Since it's not possible to note down the characteristics of harassers, predicting who will do it and when they'll do it becomes a problem. However, according to Puente, the harassers "lack a social conscience and engage in manipulative, immature, irresponsible and exploitative behaviours."