Sexual Harassment

This article about Sexual Harassment in the Tech Industry sparked this post- the sexual bias they faced was mixed up with the sexual harassment they experienced…  Both are real and serious issues, especially in male-dominated industries.

Today’s Tip: Avoid Sexual Harassment.

On the Giving End:

If you’re ever been accused of being non-PC (politically correct), a chauvinist, or a harasser at work, or if it seems certain people are uncomfortable around you, this may help:

Both of these people could be accused of sexual harassment

Both of these people could be accused of sexual harassment

  1. Do your best to always dress, act, and speak professionally.  You don’t have to be a “stuffed shirt,” but keep certain boundaries in the office, and leave the rest for non-work-related times/places.
  2. If someone accuses you of harassing them, protect yourself by addressing it immediately.  Document their complaint and how you handled it.  Leave personal opinion out of it, and address only the issue at hand. Bring it up to Human Resources (this is an important function of HR).  Put it on record by writing out an e-mail.  For example, let’s say that your c0-worker Jo has religious beliefs against wearing the color green, which happens to be your favorite color to wear to work.  “Jo, thank you for letting me know that you feel that the way I dress is inappropriate.  I want to assure you that is a choice of style, within the bounds of the company dress code, and is not meant to upset you.   I have copied HR on this e-mail in case they want to follow up with us on this.”  
  3. Be someone who supports a healthy work environment.  Some people are sensitive, and you will have to get others involved if you feel you can not reasonably accommodate their request, but if you can, do your best to make it a great place for everyone to work.  Examine your own biased views and do your best to be fair based on qualifications and skills.  Your integrity will shine through!


On the Receiving End:

1. If someone makes you uncomfortable at work with comments, requests, etc., call them out for it, preferably with the 3 Steps to Assertiveness- for example, if someone is telling dirty jokes at work that you don’t want to hear:

  1. Name it. (You’re telling dirty jokes at work.)
  2. Tell how it affects you. (I feel it is inappropriate.)
  3. Tell them what to do. (Keep the inappropriate talk out of the workplace).

There is a good chance it will stop if you say something, and a good chance that it will continue if you don’t (whether the person realizes they are offending you or not).  Email them if you cannot bring yourself to do it in person.  Do say something though, because as with most offensive behaviors, simply naming it often “stops the fight before it starts,” as being strong enough to say something means you are not so easy to pick on.  Direct communication is the first step.  (Note: skipping this step and talking bad about them to co-workers, or going to HR or your boss can be seen as a personal attack.  It is better for everyone to communicate directly and then escalate as necessary- read on). 3 Steps to Assertiveness2. FOLLOW UP with an e-mail. “Hey Jo, today you said I was making a big deal out of what you consider “nothing,” (or thanks for hearing me out today) but telling dirty jokes at work is inappropriate, and I am hoping you’ll respect my request to keep appropriate language in the office.”  Do include the behavior, and the fact that you asked for it to stop in the e-mail.  

3. If the behavior persists, opportunities get withheld, or the person continues to harass you, get Human Resources involved, and show them the original e-mail.  They will likely interview you and the the person who is being offensive, and it will go on record, which should be a good deterrent for the harasser.

4. If the behavior or harassment continues, continue to report it.  You deserve a respectful, productive, and equal-opportunity workplace.


Sexual harassment is a real issue in the workplace, and it is not only illegal, it is wrong.  Having the ability to say something stops the problem before the offenders and the offended escalate to HR and beyond.

EMPOWERED Focused Self-Defense offers Corporate Assertiveness and Communication programs.  We come to your location at your best time. Contact us for a free consultation!


Be safe. Be Strong. Be EMPOWERED!