By Susan Opata
Going with the current trend in the world, sexual violence and it’s related ills have become an everyday crime and one we can’t ignore.
Sexual harassment is a form of sexual violence which is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature or the creation of a hostile environment. Sexual harassment can happen anywhere; in the street, at the club, at an interview, at the school, at the workplace. It doesn’t have to be of the opposite sex, the perpetrator and the victim can be of any gender.
Sexual harassment in a workplace or a business place often denies the victim many of his/her rights. The chance for a promotion or growth is always at stake if they refuse to give in to the sexual demands of someone in authority. Sometimes, business owners do not take the issue of sexual harassment to heart. True it is always a difficult thing to resolve, nonetheless it can be resolved.
In a business place, sexual harassment has the following implications;
- It causes friction between the parties: When harassment takes place in the office, it affects the relationship between the two be it co-workers or superior and subordinate. This friction in the relationship also goes to affect the business or job done.
- Emotional implications: Sexual harassment demoralizes the victim. It can lead to loss of self esteem, worry and anxiety. It affects their attitude to work because they are always uncomfortable within the work area.
- Physical Implications: Sexual harassment affects the general health of the victim. Constant anxiety especially around the work area can lead to constant headache, loss of appetite, loss of weight, lack of sleep, and subsequently these leads to high blood pressure, hypertension, and even stroke. These are things we take for granted yet they are the things that cripple one’s health.
- Financial implications and productivity: The victim becomes less productive because they are not emotionally stable to work. A happy employee is a motivated employee and a motivated employee is a productive employee. It also has financial implications because when they become less productive they are relieved of their jobs, only few times are the perpetrators found out and sanctioned. There are even times when the victim may decide to leave their current position or employer to avoid a hostile work environment.
- Global Implications: Every business has a direct effect on the global economy. The economy suffers due to premature retirement ( people leaving their positions or being sacked) and higher insurance costs. Sexual harassment in the office adds to this.
Yes it is true that moral decadence and sense of decency is fast on the decline, but there are ways an employer or business owner can prevent or handle this menace.
- Lead by example: If an employer should lead by example, once he is committed to a harassment free environment in his workplace, his employees will follow suit. By this, he should have a clear knowledge on what really entails sexual harassment
- By having a sexual harassment policy and seminars: A sexual harassment policy helps everyone in your organisation understand what constitutes sexual harassment within that environment and how it will be dealt with. It is good to consult a lawyer on this. Every employee should receive a copy of the policy which contains code of conduct and penalties as it relates to sexual harassment. You should also train your staff to respond appropriately if they witness harassment or if an employee makes a complaint.
- Be proactive: Having a laid down policy, you should take every complaint seriously and investigate then promptly. Once investigated, do not wait a minute, impose appropriate consequences on the harasser and make sure you create a safe environment for the victim.
It is the role of every employer is to make sure their employees feel safe in the workplace. It is also the role of the employer to assure every employee that they can feel safe at their place of work.