INT 029: How You Can Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Discourage Inappropriate Behavior

Linda Yates, Mary Beth Bonnar, Sexual Harassment in workplace

In today’s episode of Int-HER-rupt, Linda and guest Marybeth Bonnar address sexual harassment in the workplace. With a long career in human relations (and the current HR manager for a $700 million company), Marybeth has done just about every HR task imaginable, from recruitment to termination and everything in-between. Marybeth has had people come to her with sexual harassment issues, and she wants people to know how to mitigate problems and keep themselves safe.

But first, what classifies as inappropriate behavior, and when does it become harassment?

  • Inappropriate behavior in the workplace is anything that makes anyone feel uncomfortable. It could be a minor issue, like bullying. Or it could be more serious, like sexual harassment.
  • Harassment is anything inappropriate with a sexual nature, like gestures, a request for favors, or maybe even something perceived to be funny. And, of course, the blatant quid pro quo.

If someone feels uncomfortable, how can they stop it?

  • It’s important to remember this is not a strictly male-harasses-female phenomenon. It can happen to and from any gender. 
  • If you’re uncomfortable, tell the person performing the action.
  • If you don’t feel like you can, go to a supervisor or HR department for support.
  • Some companies even have an anonymous hotline that allows you to alert the necessary parties without disclosing your identity.

What if you aren’t getting the help you need?

  • Look to a colleague to help, and keep going higher up the chain of command until someone takes you seriously. 
  • Once you’ve exhausted the people within your company, you should get an attorney and file a harassment claim against your company.
  • If this is happening to someone you know, encourage them. Because it isn’t their fault.
  • There are support groups for people to help each other going through sexual harassment situations. 

Marybeth believes three out of every four sexual harassments go unreported. Why does this happen?

  • Many people don’t report their situation out of shame. They don’t know how to handle the situation and don’t want people to know about it.
  • They might be afraid of retaliation and worry for their safety or their feeling of control over the situation.
  • Lastly, they might not want to sacrifice their reputation.

Marybeth’s parting advice, and has she ever been interrupted?

  • If a situation feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Ultimately, you deserve respect, and you need to enforce your boundaries.
  • For Marybeth, COVID was a huge interruption to her life.
  • While the pandemic made her shift both her work and home mentality, she worked through it.
  • In the end, she tries to be a positive person and make the most of every opportunity. Bitter or better – that’s your choice.

Do you have more stories to tell? Connect with Linda on LinkedIn. This podcast is produced by TSE Studios. Check out other podcasts by the TSE Studios, including The Sales Evangelist and more. Subscribe to the Int-HER-rupt Podcast so you won’t miss a single show. You can find us on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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