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Sexual Harassment Negatively Impacts the Bottom Line of Businesses

The effect of sexual harassment and assault on individual women in the work place has been studied and the pain and trauma of these victims recognized. But, what about the effect on the companies and their employees where sexual harassment takes place. An article by Marcel Faggioni (B.A. (Hons), M.I.R., CHRP, Q. Med. ) released by Integrity Management Consulting Group, a division of M.C. Faggioni & Associates-Associés Inc., discusses a study conducted by Jana Raver, Associate Professor & Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behaviour of the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada and Michele Gelfand, Professor of Psychology and affiliate of the RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland that documents the link between sexual harassment in an organization and the impact on the bottom line.

Mr. Faggioni writes, “The results of the study reveal that there is a strong link. It found that sexual harassment is associated with appreciably more conflict in work teams. Additionally, it was discovered that teams showed less cohesion and less success in meeting financial goals on an organizational basis.”

The researchers state that businesses must “make it clear that all sexually harassing behaviors are forbidden, even mild behaviors that perpetrators think are ‘just good fun’.”

Faggioni concludes with, “… it is clear that eliminating sexual harassment is wise not only from a moral, ethical, and legal perspective, but it also makes good business sense.”

There are many factors that contribute to harassment in the work place. One of these is the company culture within an organization as established by management and practiced by all employees. It is an expression of a company’s values and goals.

Some company cultures establish policies to prevent sexual harassment and support women in their careers. Others might make no mention of harassment, thus leaving a void. Company policies can block women or take the side of perpetrators. As well, employees can bring discriminatory practices that are drawn from outside influences in their own lives. Without specific guidelines, these attitudes can spread unchecked within a company and directly impair women in hiring, work assignments, equal pay for equal work and advancement. If management is to create a workplace free of sexual harassment and assault toward women, it must mandate cultural changes from the top that require gender equality to override hidden agendas.

People can be resistant to change. It might seem a threat to the status quo, a person’s personal authority or an ideology. As a result, changes can take time and effort to implement. Still, change can succeed if management establishes gender parity as a top goal and works to enforce it.

Whereas company cultural changes come from the top, they must be implemented from the bottom. In some cases disciplinary actions may be required to correct undesired activities. This might mean termination of an employee who refuses to follow new policies. However, discipline alone runs the risk of driving the sexism underground where resentment can fester as individuals continue to covertly disrupt the work place.

Education is vitally important in changing attitudes. An organization can implement their own programs or hire outside consultants trained in addressing sexual harassment. Some men may think their actions are not harassing even though they are. Education has the ability to change such outlooks. Companies must continually to emphasize the importance of gender equality with individuals and groups and monitor behavior to make corrections where necessary.

This is a beginning. To bring about true change, management and employees must confront those who act in a harassing or bullying manner. The tide will turn when enough individuals stop laughing at insulting jokes and call out those who harass women. This must be done in a non-confrontational, but firm way. It was once acceptable for people to smoke in the office. It no longer is. Even though there was great strife over this, change did come. Yet, it is easy to slip back into old, familiar ways. We must continue to think and demand that everyone be treated equally.

David A. Wimsett
Beyond the Shallow Bank


Twitter: #menhavetocare


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