Guest Blogger – Jamie Costello
In a work environment, you should feel supported and confident to be able to complete your work and excel with your career ambitions. Unfortunately, there can be instances in the workplace where unpleasant behaviour such as sexual harassment can take place. If you happen to experience it, it can have detrimental effects on how you present yourself in the workplace, damaging your chances of progression and even having fear for your own life. Whether it’s attention that’s unwanted or more serious accusations being made, you may have trouble understanding the best way to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.
What Are The Signs Of Being Sexually Harassed?
Although it would be relatively evident whether you’re being sexually harassed in the workplace, it’s still important to explore what it’s defined as so actions of others can be easily defined.
Sexual harassment can be classed as receiving unwanted sexual advances, favours and getting verbal, physical or visual harassment. Other aspects that you didn’t think would be included in sexual harassment claims can relate to gender harassment, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions such as breastfeeding. It can also come from anyone in your organisation, from co-workers to management staff.
When Should I Consider Speaking Up Sexual Harassment?
It’s rather common in workplace culture for banter and joking to occur in social situations. However, not everyone takes jokes the same way as others, and if you genuinely feel uncomfortable about the jokes that someone’s making or they are behaving in a way you find unacceptable, you should advise them to stop. Particularly if the jokes are aimed at you.
Tackling the issue at first instance is the best way to prevent it from becoming a major issue in the future. Telling them that they’re making you feel uncomfortable and they need to stop, they’re likely to take it more seriously and stop.
Note Down When It Occurs
A good way of gathering evidence about sexual harassment at work is noting it down. You can either do this on your computer at home or some other personal device. Include details of what happened, when, where and if anyone else was present at the time. It’s understandable to feel a bit of trauma reliving the experiences, but noting them down will help you if any legal proceedings were to take place in front of dispute resolution lawyers. Alternative ways to note down incidents is through a journal if you don’t have access to a computer.
Document Your Work Records
One way that harassers try to defend themselves against your claims regarding harassment, they’ll try to attack how you’re performing in the workplace. To prevent them from bringing up this defence against your claim, gather documents related to your performance and any other relatable files to do with it. This will be evidence that you’re performing well in the workplace and you’re keeping up to date with it.
Report The Behaviour To A Supervisor Or HR Representative
If there’s any possibility that you feel that you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, you should report it to your supervisor or HR representative. Employer’s need to be aware of the conduct of their staff and be able to legally confront them if a claim is made. As proof that you’ve reported, the best way to do this is through a written email or document. However, a verbal claim should also prompt them to investigate it further.
Consider Reporting To Senior Management
If you feel the claims haven’t been dealt with correctly by your supervisor or HR representative, you can go one step further and report it to senior management. Again, the best way to do this is through a written complaint and provide supporting evidence about what has happened so far.
What Should My Employer Do?
As an employer, if employees feel uncomfortable within their work surroundings it should be up to them to address the situation if they bring it to their attention. As an employer, immediate action should be taken around the matter. Whether it’s conducting a formal investigation or confront the colleague personally, the relevant steps should be taken in the best possible way to resolve the matter.
Sexual harassment in the workplace should be considered an incident that’s taken very seriously.
No employee should have to suffer from dealing with the matter in silence. Following these steps when experiencing sexual harassment at work will help you to address it sooner rather than later and prevent future problems occurring. Preventing such incidents occurring can help you to focus on more important aspects, like your career.