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Sexual Harassment: Workplace Culture

Sexual Harassment: Workplace Culture

We here at Hard Hat Training are disheartened to be addressing the issue of sexual harassment in our blog again. As the accusations continue to roll in, well-known politicians and celebrities are exposed for their illegal and immoral behaviors. From harassment to quid pro quo, to outright sexual assault, we have all been subjected to tales of nightmarish work conditions the past few months. While we (obviously) value training, we recognize that sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, and even violence in the workplace will not significantly decrease until everyone strives to change workplace culture. Without a good workplace culture, no amount of training will have a lasting impact on these issues.

What is Workplace Culture?

Workplace culture is set by the values of an organization. These values should put a premium on diversity, fairness, respect, and inclusion. A healthy culture illustrates that all employees deserve to be respected, regardless of gender, race, nationality, sexuality, or religion. Today’s workplace is increasingly diverse, and welcoming that diversity should be a mindset that is constantly cultivated and reinforced, from the CEO down to the janitor–everyone should be promoting inclusion and respect, every day. Furthermore, everyone–from the CEO down to the janitor–should be treated with respect, every day.

Supervisors and managers are especially important to workplace culture. They are the eyes and ears on the floor and should keep close tabs on conversations and behaviors that could damage the culture. Employees look to supervisors and managers to communicate respect and inclusion in their day-to-day behavior; their attitude, conversations, and behaviors can shape the workplace culture into a positive, safe environment for everyone.

What are some ways a supervisor or manager can be a good example for those they work with? Here are a few ideas:

Sexual Harassment: A Workplace Epidemic

Sexual harassment is never a pleasant topic to deal with, but we must tackle this workplace hazard decisively. Harassment in the workplace will not stop on its own – it’s up to all of us to fight against it. We cannot be complacent bystanders and expect our workplace cultures to change themselves.  A recent social media trend has opened many people’s eyes to the prevalence of sexual harassment in our society, and it’s worth taking a look at this important issue again.

In 1980, the EEOC issued guidelines declaring sexual harassment a violation of Section 703 of Title VII. It also established criteria for determining when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment, defined the circumstances under which an employer may be held liable, and suggested affirmative steps employers should take to prevent sexual harassment.

Despite Title VII’s passage over 50 years ago and the subsequent amendment in 1980, sexual harassment continues to be a serious issue in the workplace. Last year alone, the EEOC received almost 13,000 sexual harassment charges. Additionally, it is estimated that up to three-quarters of victims do not report harassment to their employer for fear of retribution or termination.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can cover a broad spectrum of behaviors from persistent, offensive sexual jokes to posting offensive material on a bulletin board.

Did you know?

  • A victim of sexual harassment may be a woman or a man.
  • The harasser does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • A victim can be anyone affected by the offensive behavior.

What Can I Do?

If you find yourself the victim of harassment, the biggest question on your mind is, “What do I do about it?”

Speak Up: The first thing you should do when faced with harassment is to speak up. Talking to your harasser can be difficult, especially if they are in a supervisory position.

Talk directly with your harasser and tell them what they’ve done to offend you. Be specific. Be serious, straightforward, and blunt. Hold the harasser accountable for their actions and demand the harassment stop. Don’t make excuses, and don’t pretend it didn’t really happen. Don’t respond to the harasser’s excuses or diversionary tactics. Say what you have to say, and repeat it if necessary.

Document Harassment: Documenting harassment is important if you need to take your complaint to your supervisor, union representative, or Human Resources. Here are some ways to document harassment:

  • Photograph or keep copies of offensive material in the workplace.
  • Keep a journal with detailed information on instances of sexual harassment. Note the dates, conversation, and frequency of offensive encounters.
  • Tell other people, including personal friends and
  • Obtain copies of your work records, including performance evaluations, and keep these copies at home.

Follow Procedures: Your employer’s sexual harassment policy should outline reporting procedures. If you don’t know the procedures complaints in your workplace, you’re not alone. Nearly 70% of workers aren’t aware of their employer’s harassment policies. In most cases, you’ll go to a supervisor or the HR department.

Remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence.

Be Aware

Be aware of any unconscious biases you might be bringing to your workplace. These can influence how you interpret and respond to situations, which in turn, impacts your decisions. Cultivate inclusive language and behaviors in your daily interactions.

Be Authentic

Employees will recognize when you’re not leading by example. This will foster mistrust, which will affect morale and productivity. If employees don’t feel you are truly concerned with their safety and well-being, they will hesitate to report harassment. Be approachable, admit your shortcomings, and strive to improve when necessary. Your employees will see you as a better leader and follow your example if you do so.

Be Accountable

Be accountable for the culture in your workplace. Consciously recognize inclusion and respect as key components of business decisions. Demonstrate your commitment to addressing underlying factors that may damage the culture in your workplace. When you take accountability, you employees will align their attitudes and behaviors accordingly.

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the ONLY means. (Albert Einstein)

For more information on safety training, including our Sexual Harassment Training (for employees and managers), visit us at

Good luck, stay safe, and be kind!