Sexual Harassment as Unethical Workplace Behavior

Every employee in an organization is obligated to observe professional ethics and conduct while in the place of work. The rights and welfare of employees must be protected at all times for them to carry out their duties and responsibilities without having to worry about any form of abuse (Boland, 2005). According to statistics, sexual harassment has become one of the major forms of abuse experienced in many organizations. Sexual harassment includes any form of coercion or intimidation that is sexual and is unwelcome.

Sexual harassment is illegal and any employee found with this kind of offense is liable for prosecution in the court of law. Sexual harassment is a serious problem affecting employees in many organizations across the world and yet victims of this kind of employment discrimination continue to suffer in silence. This paper will discuss the various forms of sexual harassment at work, how to control it together with the possible social and economic benefits of dealing with sexual harassment within an organization.

Sexual harassment at work can occur in many different forms and it is very important to clearly understand them (Boland, 2005). The most reported cases highlight the fact that those in a position of power take advantage of their positions to sexually harass their juniors. Although both male and female employees are prone to sexual violence, female employees are the ones who are very vulnerable to sexual harassment.

The harasser can be a boss, a client, or a colleague at the place of work regardless of whether they of the same sex or not. Those committing this kind of offense may do it knowingly or at times they may be ignorant of the fact that their actions are illegal (Boland, 2005). The effects of sexual violence on a victim and the organization are almost similar regardless of the nature and magnitude of the offense. Since there is a range of behavior associated with sexual harassment, it is sometimes very difficult for the victims to explain how they were harassed (Lightle, 2007). The motives and behavior of harassers vary in many ways and that is why some sexual harassment cases may lack substantial evidence for prosecution.

The first category of sexual harassment includes the use of offensive words, suggestive gestures, and generally all forms of unwanted comments. The second category of sexual harassment includes bodily contact in sensitive areas such as the waist, the back, and other private parts (Lightle, 2007). The third form of sexual harassment includes constant pestering for dates and repeated flirting. The final category of sexual harassment includes exposing sexually suggestive pictures, music, and objects to victims. Sexual harassment has adverse effects on the harasser, victim, and the general working environment. The effects of sexual harassment range from social, economic, and professional.

To begin with, the performance of the employee who is a victim of sexual harassment is bound to drop due to the defamation of character as well as the humiliation associated with sexual harassment. The reputation of the victim, harasser, and organization is put at stake as a result of sex scandals. The trust among seniors and juniors within an organization is affected by a great with sexual harassment cases. The organization is bound to experience a team conflict that negatively affects its productivity. A decrease in productivity means that the organization can no longer meet its financial targets (Aggarwal, 2000). It is difficult for employees who are sexually harassed to have job satisfaction.

Job satisfaction is very important in making the employees give their best for the organization. Employees experiencing this form of harassment at their workplace will feel less motivated even if they earn good salaries. In an attempt to stay away from sexual harassment, many employees prefer to resign from the organization. This is among the worst effects of sexual harassment to an organization since the organization ends up losing its reliable and professional staff.

Sexual harassment victims may need some medical attention and this means extra medical costs for the organization (Aggarwal, 2000). Employees who become sick as a result of sexual harassment affect the productivity of the organization due to prolonged absenteeism from their places of work in search of medical attention. In organizations that are not strict on enforcing ethical behavior and standards, cases of indiscipline are bound to increase.

An organization that does not protect the rights of its employees can not in any way enjoy a good and positive public image. If an organization fails to handle sexual harassment cases as expected by the victim, the case might be taken to a court of law by the victim and this means extra legal costs to be incurred by the organization. The depression, anxiety, and shame brought about by sexual harassment are among the notable psychological effects of sexual harassment at work. The self-esteem of victims is lost through sexual harassment and this makes the victims isolate themselves from others (Aggarwal, 2000). The trauma caused by sexual harassment can lead to severe mental stress and even suicide.

The duration and severity of a sexual harassment case determine the magnitude of its effect on the organization. Every organization needs to put appropriate social control mechanisms in place to deal with the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace (Aggarwal, 2000). Many employees who are victims of sexual harassment often keep silent due to the fear of retaliation from the harassers. Since the majority of the harassers are in senior positions, the victims fear negative actions against them from their seniors.

It is important for any employee who has been sexually harassed to report their plight to the human resources department or the nearest authority (Baxter, 1989). Policies concerning sexual harassment vary from one organization to another and some organizations have been criticized for encouraging sexual harassment through their policies. Organizations should put in place policies that protect their employees against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.

The policy governing the investigation of sexual harassment cases should also be put in place. Training programs should also be put in place by employers to educate the employees and other stakeholders within an organization on both the state and organizational policies regarding sexual harassment (Baxter, 1989). The management of an organization has a very important role to play in the investigation and prevention of sexual harassment cases within the organization.

The organizational culture should not allow any form of sexual harassment to occur within the organization. The management can demonstrate zero tolerance to sexual harassment by investigating and punishing all cases of sexual harassment without any fear and favor (Baxter, 1989).

Sexual harassment is also controlled by both state and federal laws. Any form of sexual harassment is against the law and the harasser should face the full force of law regardless of their positions of power and influence within the organization. Both private and public organizations must observe all the laws protecting employees from sexual violence (Carey, 1992). The employees are also protected against retaliation that may arise after complaints regarding sexual harassment have been made by the victims.

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that their employees are protected against sexual harassment. The management should have clear internal grievance procedures that enable employees to report cases of sexual harassment. The employer should take the initiative of educating the employees on the procedure of reporting a sexual harassment case (Carey, 1992). Organizations should adopt a dressing code that promotes decency. Some of the sexual harassment cases are provoked by the improper dressing. Proper dressing helps a great deal in preventing some sexual harassment cases.

Punishing harassers and making them pay for their offenses is the best way of discouraging sexual harassment cases at work. In an organization where people get away with sexual harassment, more cases are bound to follow making the whole thing look very normal. Sexual harassment policies should be strictly enforced in organizations where men and women work together because such environments are vulnerable to cases of sexual harassment.

Campaigns aimed at promoting behavioral change should be encouraged in organizations while making the employees see the negative consequences of sexual harassment. Organizations should have guiding and counseling units that can help the victims of sexual harassment recover from their predicament as soon as possible to minimize its effects on the victim and the organization in general (Carey, 1992). There are a lot of benefits associated with having an organization that is free from sexual harassment. Ethical behavior brings both social and economic benefits that enable an organization to achieve its goals and targets.

To begin with, the employee relations within an organization is improved as a result of corporate citizenship. Good corporate citizenship is a very fundamental factor in enhancing positive economic outcomes (Boland, 2005). An organization that is free from sexual harassment and any other forms of discrimination is bound to experience the tangible benefit of ethical behavior in all aspects.

The productivity, loyalty, and morale of employees can only be high in an environment free from harassment. An organization can retain its employees since most of the employees feel safe and protected (Boland, 2005). The brand of any company plays a vital role in determining whether the organization receives positive business outcomes or not. Organizations with enhanced ethical behavior attract more customers and clients as a result of having a positive brand image.

Companies that have a history of sexual harassment always have a hard task in promoting their brands. The other benefit of having an organization that observes ethical standards is that the legal and medical costs associated with sexual harassment cases are avoided and therefore helping the organization to minimize its costs (Boland, 2005). Trust among employees is very important since it promotes teamwork.

An organization that observes ethical standards and behavior reaps the social and economic benefits associated with teamwork. An organization needs to work as a team for it to realize its goals and targets. A working environment that is full of mistrust and suspicion among employees and their superiors due to cases of sexual harassment will always struggle to achieve its goals and objectives (Lightle, 2007).

The self-esteem and confidence of employees are enhanced when they are assured that their rights are protected (Lightle, 2007). Employees can come up with innovations and ideas that can improve the organization if they work in organizations free from any form of harassment. The reporting system within an organization can only function according to the company structure and strategy if there are clear policies that guide it.

It is the desire of many people to work in organizations that observe ethical standards and behavior. Such organizations attract the best professionals around because of having a good reputation. Apart from retaining the best talents, the organization also benefits from being in a better position to hire the best talents (Lightle, 2007). For an organization to thrive, it has to be on good terms with the government. Governments always have an issue with organizations that fail to protect the rights of their employees. Incentives and other forms of support from the government can only be guaranteed if an organization observes ethical behavior.

In conclusion, it is important to note that ethical behavior must be enforced in organizations for them to enjoy any kind of success. Sexual harassment is the most common form of harassment experienced in many organizations around the world. Apart from affecting the victim, sexual harassment affects the image and performance of an organization in the general sense. A working environment free from sexual harassment enhances both social and economic benefits. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that ethical standards and behavior are fully enforced in their organizations.


Aggarwal, A. (2000). Sexual harassment in the workplace. London: Butterworths.

Baxter, R. (1989). Sexual harassment in the workplace: a guide to the law. New York, NY: Executive Enterprises Publications Company.

Boland, M. (2005). Sexual harassment in the workplace. New York, NY: Sphinx Legal.

Carey, J. (1992). Sexual harassment in the workplace: designing and implementing successful policy, conducting an investigation, protecting the rights of parties. New York, NY: Practicing Law Institute.

Lightle, J. (2007). Sexual harassment in the workplace: a guide to prevention. New York, NY: Thomson Learning/Netg.

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