Rising Incidence of Harassment at Workplace and Its Implications for Diversity

The Rising Incidence of Harassment at the Workplace

In recent months, the corporate world across all continents and regions has been impacted by a rising trend of harassment of women at the workplace. The evidence for this can be seen in the almost weekly news and scandals of sexual harassment in the United States and in Asia, which have emerged, as the main centers for these cases. This has grave implications for the practice of organizational diversity and unless, steps are taken to address this growing malaise, the corporate world would soon resemble a jungle where women feel unsafe and harassed and discriminated against. To arrest this trend, business leaders must urgently take steps to restore the confidence of women that their concerns would be taken care of and that their welfare is paramount to the corporates. The point here is that this trend of harassment and discrimination has emerged just when more and more women were entering the corporate world as employees and being promoted to senior positions. The fact that no woman at any level is immune from harassment speaks a sorry tale about the depths to which the corporate world has sunk.

Ways to Check the Dangerous Trend of Harassment: Prevention is Better than Cure

To redress this situation, companies must take all complaints of harassment seriously and investigate them without any bias. The fact that punishment must be meted out to the perpetrators however senior they might be and however up the hierarchy they are. The point here is that a strong message must be sent out to all employees that harassment and discrimination against women would not be tolerated. Apart from this, special committees must be setup to allay the fears of women and to record anonymous complaints from women so that their identities are protected. Further, the women employees must be encouraged to report even the slightest misdemeanors so that the workplace is free of harassment and discrimination of any kind. This means that even the smallest cases of harassment should not be tolerated as these supposedly small incidents if left unpunished would soon morph into serious cases of harassment as the perpetrators feel emboldened to continue their behavior. The key aspect here is that often at the workplace, when it is common for men and women to work together, the line between decency and decorum and boorish behavior is often crossed and once it happens, it would surely assume dangerous proportions. Therefore, it is better to nip such behavior in the bud to prevent it from happening again and to ensure that it does not grow to alarming proportions.

Need for Mindset Change accompanied by Senior Leadership Commitment

Of course, all these steps are meaningless without a corresponding change in mindsets and hence, the mindset of tolerance and acceptance must be inculcated and developed and this must start right from the top. This means that the organizational culture and the DNA must be nurtured and developed in a manner that would produce a corresponding confidence in women and make them feel empowered and enabled. The point here is that often women feel helpless when they are harassed because the perpetrators are either their bosses or those who are in the good books of their superiors. The only way to address this insecurity would be through sending a strong message corresponding with strict action against those who harass and intimidate women. This can only be done if the HR and the diversity teams take a proactive stance against harassment instead of acting on complaints. In other words, by preventing harassment, the organization can fare better than acting on complaints, which means that the damage has already been done. This is the best approach towards harassment and discrimination which when accompanied by a genuine movement towards mindset change would result in a workplace free of harassment and discrimination.


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