While the most pertinent impact of sexual harassment is how it affects the victim, there are other consequences. And to begin repairing any damage these actions have caused, all of the ripples and effects of sexual harassment must be understood. Only then can true healing and restoration begin, and the proper resources allocated. To further understand how damaging sexual harassment can be, this article will review how sexual harassment affects the work environment.
While sexual harassment can affect the victim's physical, mental, and emotional health, it can also impact other workers. Occasionally, this can cause other workers to experience secondary or vicarious trauma, depending on how close they were to the victim. Secondary trauma can occur when someone is exposed to someone who has been directly traumatized, as they are affected by the stories and descriptions of the victim. Vicarious trauma occurs for similar reasons, but this trauma usually results in a significant worldview shift. For example, an employee may quit their job if they see continuous cases of sexual harassment because they believe or worry that they will become a victim.
Unfortunately, this trauma occurs because the act of sexual harassment can shatter someone’s sense of security and understanding of the world around them. What was once a place of safety and professionalism has been flipped on its head. It can cause others to feel unsafe, and coworkers may begin to lose trust in one another. This can quickly cause a tightly woven team to break down, impacting overall morale, mental health, and productivity.
Toxic work environments are defined by inappropriate and unaddressed behavior that impacts a victim’s or coworker’s ability to do their job. If sexual harassment is left unattended, workers will begin to lose their unity as a team. And as stated previously, many workers may start to feel unsafe, especially if harassment has occurred and was left unaddressed multiple times. It is essential to understand that if meetings, training, and repair aren’t done swiftly, toxic work environments can lead to severe burnout, fatigue, and even physical illnesses. This is because stress can have a powerful impact on the body, and while this may seem like a dramatic statement, nausea, headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, and more are all symptoms of stress.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment is the sort of issue that will snowball, and it will never simply stay isolated to the victim(s). On a surface level, coworkers may be irritable, defensive, depressed, or quick to anger, making them harder to work with and overall teamwork harder to achieve. On a deeper level, workers may feel afraid, unheard, and may even begin to consider quitting. If it reaches this point, employee education on managing stress, learning various coping skills, and genuine team-building activities are necessary. However, it is also essential to understand that regardless of what is done on the employer side of things, employees may choose to leave, which must be respected.
If sexual harassment is not handled appropriately, or there were no steps taken to educate and prevent instances of sexual harassment, the company is also likely to face litigation. These settlements can go up to millions of dollars depending on the extent of the harassment, and smaller companies may not be able to afford such high settlements. These legal issues take away money and resources once allocated to workers and company programs, severely stifling growth and progress. And it is not unheard of for smaller businesses to go bankrupt or close due to a lack of ability to pay legal fees. Additionally, it is not just financial issues that may come because of court proceedings, as the overall company’s name and reputation can take a nosedive.
Even if your company doesn’t face a lawsuit from the victim, the amount of money that must go into healing and repairing the company and its workers can be extensive. Again, this is not always an option for smaller businesses, and a lack of funds will further snowball the situation. While this may sound like an exaggeration, it is not unheard of for a company to go under entirely due to a sexual harassment claim. So, while one incident may seem like “not a big deal” or an unfortunate “coincidence,” it should always be taken seriously and handled with quick action. While it may sound harsh, an aggressor, once convicted, must be punished to the extent of policy to ensure that others don’t think they can get away with similar actions.
If your company name has been damaged, or employers have failed to deal with the situation appropriately, hiring and worker retention can take a serious hit. Worker retention can fall due to workers not wanting to stay at a facility they don’t feel safe in, as is their right. As a result, employee turnover rates can skyrocket, meaning the onboarding process will constantly occur, taking away time and resources from other workers. If retention and turnover rates are not improved, applicants will likely get wind of the situation, and hiring rates can slow or dip. Hiring rates may also fall due to applicants not wanting to be associated with the facility.
If your business doesn’t have workers it can rely on, this will have a deadly impact on productivity, causing even the largest company to fall and ultimately fail. If hiring and retention rates are falling, a business will have to spend a lot of time and money rebranding to save face and cultivate a new image. Some companies have even resorted to changing their name entirely to trick and coerce unaware applicants into working there. However, this is almost always found out and, overall, is not a good idea. If the issue reaches this point, it’s a good idea to start working with a PR agent and do some serious work and reflection on the company policy and environment.
No matter how “small” a sexual harassment incident may be, even if it only happened once, it will damage some part of the company, with the chance of other unquantifiable effects. It’s workers that make a company, facility, or business tick. If they aren’t valued, respected, or protected, they will not want to work there, and the workplace will suffer. That is why it is best to continually encourage and update sexual harassment education training and promote honesty and communication amongst every worker. Not only will this help the company cover its bases, but it will protect its most valued component—the workers.
Knowing exactly how sexual harassment affects the overall work environment and the company arms you with the knowledge to help improve company policy and protect workers. If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual harassment, or nothing is being done about sexual harassment at your job, there are options. Contact sexual harassment lawyer Tamara N Holder to get the help and legal representation you deserve.