Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

I wanted to take a moment to respond further to the stories of workplace sexual harassment that have been coming forward more and more in the past weeks. Many, from various talking heads to Eric Trump, seem to be suggesting that all a woman (or man) needs to do to dispel sexual harassment is go to human resources. Firstly, this point of view totally ignores the reality that many workplace cultures subtly encourage employees not to file harassment claims. Additionally, as I’ve discussed in my book, in many instances of workplace bullying (including sexual harassment), HR can oftentimes be part of the problem – either because they don’t have the power to effectively resolve issues, or because they are actively taking part in creating issues. Blindly directing targets of sexual harassment to HR is not only foolish, but potentially harmful in the modern workplace. Unless HR is completely trustworthy in the given organization, targets need to gather substantive evidence of their harassment to back themselves up when they finally make their situation known – otherwise, HR can end up empowering the bully or harasser further, sometimes unintentionally. As opposed to encouraging more women to speak up about harassment, which is valuable, I suggest another option: we need to encourage HR officers to grow backbones. In many workplaces like Fox News, where ongoing harassment seemed to be an open secret, where was HR? Where is HR when an employee is showing clear signs of domestic abuse, sexual harassment or mental issues? Many of the workplace bullying cases I see day to day could be avoided – if HR was empowered to help employees effectively, and had the real intention to do so.