According Uggen and Blackstone, sexual harassment in the workplace refers to the “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that interferes with one’s employment or work performances or creates a hostile or offensive environment” (626). While there are laws that protect victims of sexual harassment, there are still recorded cases of the same where victims sue their workmates over harassment allegations. For instance, on October 15, 2013 the New York Times Newspaper carried the headline “Ex-Mayor of San Diego Pleads Guilty to Charges of Sexual Harassment” where said mayor was charged and found guilty of harassing his secretaries at the workplace (Davis and Nagourney). While such news made the headline of the United States at the time, there are still cases that are unheard as victims choose not to sue. This paper seeks to identify the effects of sexual harassment at the workplace with regard to the victim and the place of work.
The immediate effect of sexual harassment is according to Uggen and Blackstone, much stress with regard to the victim (697). Said victim will have trouble in concentrating on their work and as a result, their performance declines drastically. Consequently, Gold argues that with the stress comes instability at work and in their homes leading to the creation of “a spiraling effect in which the target accumulates more and more injury” (75). However, said injuries are not physical but mental where the victims of unwanted sexual advances feel unsafe in places outside work. Eventually paranoia can set in unless an intervention takes place to help the victim overcome said paranoia. At first, victims perceive the problem as an isolated event that would eventually stop. Most of the time, it continues and the victim who in most cases is a woman (Boland 43), starts to experience feelings of anxiety. For instance, a victim of sexual harassment will start avoiding work engagements and can at times require time away from the workplace. Eventually, when the stress proves to be unbearable, most victims opt for resignations. In turn, with more resignations, companies record high turnover rates as employees leave the organization in search of better work environment (Uggen and Blackstone 638).
In most cases, incidents of sexual harassment can also affect the victim’s co-workers. This is so because effective work requires the coordination of multiple parties for optimum results in a given organization. Boland attests to this when she states that coworkers “become less productive as they spend time on strategizing on ways to solve the problem” (43) However, when it is common knowledge that a person belonging to one gender has been sexually harassed; members of the victim’s gender will probably become anxious assuming the proprietor will soon be after them. When this happens, there is a disruption to the working rapport and in turn, strained work relations impair the organization’s output. When this happens, the aftermath affects the business as a whole regardless of gender or position held in the same. This is so in the sense that, when a company performs poorly, there is less profit hence less revenue to pay its employees. Consequently, mistakes and lack of commitment to work can result in bankruptcy.
Therefore, the effects of sexual harassment at the workplace can take the form of a ripple effect that starts with the victim and gradually expands to every person in the place. To avoid such instances, there is a need to have the proper training to discourage sexual harassment in places of work. In addition, the establishment of policies applicable to the employees and outside parties involved with the organization will be a good step towards preventing cases of sexual harassment.
Boland, Mary L. Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Naperville, Illinois: SphinxLegal, 2005.
Davis Rob and Nagourney Adam. "Ex-Mayor of San Diego Pleads Guilty to Charges of Sexual Harassment." The New York Times 15 October 2013.
Gold, Liza H. Sexual Harassment:Psychiatric Assessment in Employment Litigation. Virginia: American Psychiatric Pub, 2008.
Uggen Christopher and Blackstone Amy. "Sexual Harassment, Workplace Authority, and the Paradox of Power." American Sociological Review 77: 625 (2012): 626-647.