Confronting improper behavior is difficult for anyone at any age and at any stage in their career or personal life. However, over recent years there has finally been a break in this taboo, and at the moment much of what we see in the media are reports of victims who are at last speaking out.
It all seems so much worse than many of these allegations come from people in positions of power which you would hope will act in an exemplary way. Scandals and poor conduct of various sorts have been happening forever, but it should have always been the case that everyone was able to confront the unacceptable without fear for career or reputation.
So, now that this is all coming to light, what effect is it having financially?
It is apparent that inappropriate conduct is happening everywhere and at all levels, in all types of organization, and those who speak up are too often dismissed as being oversensitive or having no sense of humor or fun.
The reputational danger is massive for a business that brushes off inappropriate banter as just a bit of fun or condones sexual undertones as acceptable flirting.
Those on the receiving end are uncomfortable, for them, it is tantamount to bullying, and they feel excluded when they think that they are not up to challenging the behavior and don’t know where to go for support.
A study by Cleveland State University concluded that 90-95 percent of women who reported sexual harassment experienced physical consequences as a result, such as stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, nausea, insomnia, and PTSD or mental health struggles they have had in the past could resurface.
These issues can then manifest physically, leading to things like heart problems, digestive issues, or chronic pain.
According to data collected about 80% of women who have been harassed leave their jobs within two years. This happens everywhere: tech, education, law enforcement, etc.
Not only is this awful that people feel they have to leave their career and is devastating to the industry but it can also negatively impact their earning power as they often have to start from the bottom when they move on to their next role.
Not only does this affect women individually, but it changes the economy and women as a whole. As women leave their careers to escape sexual harassment and abuse, we’re all missing out on their ideas and accomplishments.
Paycheck to Paycheck
Most people need their paycheck to survive, so they choose not to file a complaint at all. If victims do decide to file a complaint or press charges, they likely have to pay out of pocket for legal fees. Many people cannot afford this route, and many abusers know this, which is one of the reasons why they feel so empowered to harass and abuse others in the workplace.
However, today many companies are paying out an awful lot of cash to settle harassment cases, according to the EEOC, since 2010, employers have paid out $698.7 million to employees alleging harassment through the Commission’s administrative enforcement pre-litigation process alone.
However, if no one speaks up, then this problem is going to continue. When you see or hear somebody acting inappropriately, say something.
Tell them that you don’t approve of their behavior, and ask them to stop. Go to a manager or HR and report what you’ve seen or heard. It will feel uncomfortable, but it is not just down to the victim to speak up, we are all responsible for creating a safe environment for everyone.
There are now state and federal whistleblower protection laws preventing retaliation for reporting unlawful behavior by co-workers, managers, or owners, filing a workers’ compensation claim, reporting sexual harassment or other workplace misconduct and testifying in a sexual harassment investigation, should you find yourself with grounds for wrongful termination retaliation, you are protected.
The organizations that are not doing anything about this now are vulnerable to public criticism, but the consequences of not getting this right go far beyond bad publicity or costly tribunals, the business case for creating and sustaining an inclusive business with respect at its core is indisputable.
So, while having the courage to confront does look costly, it is the right thing to do and is the only way to stop this inappropriate behavior from continuing which will end the financial strain on both victims and companies.
It will pay off in the long run and you are protected by the law, so it doesn’t have to affect you financially to do the right thing or stand up for those who you see being wronged.