November 10, 2011
Sexual harassment still exists -- here's how to handle it
Over the years, a number of women (and a couple of men) have told me their all-too-familiar tales of workplace harassment: the boss who repeatedly asks you to dinner (been there), the executive who swats your rear with a folder when you pass in the hall (there too), the co-worker who says your outfit would be better if it were more form fitting (yep).
[Wikimedia photo by Gage Skidmore]
There's a lot of advice out there on how to handle pervasive sexual harassment at work, from "document everything!" (i.e., prepare for a legal battle) to "don't report it!" (i.e., find a new job). But sometimes neither extreme fits the situation.
Two excellent blog posts on sexual harassment offer some fresh advice on how to deal with it. At CareerDiva, blogger and MSNBC career columnist Eve Tahmincioglu suggests the following:
Confront harassers right away. Don't let the offenses pile up or wait for harassment to escalate. Nip unwanted behavior in the bud. Let the person who made the offensive remark or gesture know you won't tolerate it. Be firm and direct, and don't be afraid to say your piece in front of other colleagues if you must.
Strengthen your network immediately. The more solid your professional relationship with HR managers and your boss' peers and managers, the better you'll fare if you need to make a complaint against your boss. Same goes for championing company policies and initiatives. Be a team player, and you'll have more supporters in your time of need.
Choose your battles wisely. So your clueless coworker made one dumb sexist joke. You might not subscribe to his sense of humor, but if you're a woman at the top, you might see a bit more of this locker room banter than most female employees. If telling the joke does more to make your colleague look stupid than undermine you, is it really worth making a stink this time?
Over at TheNewsChick, KIRO FM morning radio host and blogger Linda Thomas offers this helpful tip:
Talk to your coworkers. If someone at work is harassing you, chances are it isn't the first time he or she has done so. Share your tale with your workplace peers and you'll likely find several more victims in the mix. Besides gaining moral support, you build a stronger case against your harasser. Five workers telling an employer about an out-of-line manager is harder to ignore than a lone complaint.
To that I'll add a couple suggestions of my own:
Research the corporate culture ahead of time. This is especially important if you'll be working in a field or at an organization traditionally dominated by one gender, like firefighting or nursing. Reach out to past and present employees on LinkedIn, Facebook, and anywhere else you can find them. Ask how they like(d) working for the organization and how management regards and treats its workers.
If you're harassed at the interview, don't take the job. You'd be surprised how many readers have told me they've been hit on during the interview. Don't kid yourself into thinking this is a one-time deal. There are sure to be more inappropriate comments where that one came from. Be thankful for the red flag before becoming this person's employee and take your resume elsewhere.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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