Sexual harassment occurs when employees are subjected to unwelcome sexually oriented behavior. According to law, there are two types of sexual harassment. The first is quid pro quo, “Something given or received in age for something else.” In context of sexual harassment involves making submission to unwanted sexual advances a condition of hiring, advancement, or not being fired. In other words, the worker’s survival on the job depends on agreeing to engage in unwanted sex. The second type of harassment is hostile environment, or any type of unwelcome sexual behavior that creates a hostile work environment that can inflict psychological harm and interfere with job performance.
Sexual harassment can take a variety of forms: unsolicited and unwelcome flirting, sexual advances, or propositions; insulting comments about an employee’s appearance, dress, or anatomy; un appreciated dirty wakes and sexual gestures; intrusive or sexual questions about an employee’s personal life; explicit descriptions of harasser’s own sexual experiences; abuse of formalities such as “honey” and “dear”; unnecessary and unwanted physical contact such as touching, hugging, pinching, or kissing; catcalls; exposure of genitals; physical or sexual assault; and rape.
As experts have pointed out, sexual harassment is an abuse of power by a person in authority. To determine what legally constitutes sexual harassment, the courts take into account “whether the behavior is motivated by the gender of the victim, whether it is unwelcome, whether it is repetitive, and whether it could lead to negative psychological or organizational outcome. Same gender sexual harassment also occurs and is tried according to the same standards applied in cross sex sexual harassment although little research has been done the topic.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is more widespread than most people realize.
Experiencing sexual harassment can have negative effects on psychological and physical health. Problematic reactions include anger, reduced self esteem, depression, and anxiety. Victims may also have difficulties in their personal relationship and in sexual adjustment (loss of desire, for example). Increased alcohol consumption, smoking, and dependence on drugs are also reported (Davidson & Fielden,1999). Sexual harassment can also produce fallout on the job: women who are harassed may be less productive, less satisfied with their jobs and less committed to their work and employer.
To predict the occurrence of sexual harassment, researchers have developed a two factor model based on the person (prospective harasser) and the social situation. According to this model, individuals vary in their proclivity for sexual harassment, and organizational norms regarding the acceptability of sexual harassment also vary. Research suggests that sexual harassment is most likely to occur when individual proclivity is high and organizational norms are accepting. Thus, it follows that organizations can reduce the incidence of sexual harassment by promoting norms that are intolerant of it. Acknowledging the prevalence and negative impact of sexual harassment, organizations must take steps to educate and protect their workers. Managers should publicly speak out against sexual harassment; supporting programs should be designed to increase employee’s awareness of the problem, issuing policies expressly forbidding harassment.
Responses to sexual harassment may be personal as well as organizational. Researchers have developed a typology of possible responses to this problem and have studied their relative effectiveness. Ironically, the most frequently used strategy avoiding/ denial is also the least effective one.
Confrontation and advocacy seeking are two effective strategies should be frequently used by survivors.
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