Most of us at some stage have encountered situations, either through social activity or even just as a member of the public, where we have been approached by a person or persons in a manner that has left us feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable. In these situations, most people can physically remove themselves from the situation, but if this unwanted behaviour occurs in a workplace, it creates repercussions that affect other workers, resulting in conflict, damage to the workplace culture, loss of productivity for workers and management, and most importantly, anxiety, embarrassment and anguish for the victim. This type of unwanted attention in the workplace is usually sexual in nature, but is not confined to unwanted behaviour by a male to a female. It also occurs to males by males, to females by females, and by females to males.
One example was the initiations that young male apprentices were subjected to by much older males as a normal part of entering the workforce. Thankfully this behaviour is now recognised as sexual harassment, it is controlled through education, solid policy implementation and the skills of mental health professionals. It is important to understand that unwanted attention in the workplace by any gender combination occurs when a reasonable person would expect that anyone would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the behaviour or conduct. For the perpetrator, then, it is not a question of their judgement that what they are doing is “just a bit of fun.” It is a question of how the person it is directed at feels as a result. There is absolutely no comparison to mutual attractions that develop at work between adults.
There are hundreds of examples of unwanted attention in the workplace ranging from sexual innuendo in conversations to distribution of lewd material right through to sexual assault. The latter is of course, extremely serious and can result in criminal charges. However, the effect of the other behaviours should not be under estimated, especially if done by a person in authority to a subordinate. This is an untenable position for the subordinate, as they fear contact with the perpetrator, but find it unavoidable during normal work duties. If they report the behaviour their job is at risk, and if they don’t it’s seen as consent. The person being intimidated should ask the perpetrator firmly to stop the behaviour. If it continues, they should report it to management who are well aware they are vicariously liable.
Perpetrators of this behaviour often target insecure people because they know that retaliation is unlikely. People in this situation would benefit greatly from counselling with a Psychologist who can help identify their self-esteem issues and restore their personal power. In this way they are building life skills to permanently deal with these, and other, workplace situations that can impede their career advancement and cause them distress. If management does not take the issue seriously, the person has the right to lodge a complaint with the Anti Discrimination authorities in their state. Resolutions are usually reached through mediation with an apology and acknowledgement by the perpetrator that the behaviour was wrong is often the only outcome the victim required. Speak to our psychologists now for assistance.