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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Should You Let Them Chase You Away?


As many as one in four women have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to one poll. In some industries, those numbers are worse: a 2014 report from The Restaurant Opportunities Center United found that 70 percent of female food service workers experienced harassment from their bosses, and 90 percent experienced it from customers.

Conflict in the Workplace - Sexism

(Photo credit: franky242/

So, what do you do when you’re working in an unhealthy environment? Here are a few options:

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1. Avoid.

Yes, it is possible to avoid the situation altogether in some offices. You can avoid the break room when the offensive person is there, park in a different location, or even ask for a transfer to another work group. While it may feel like hiding, avoidance can be the easiest way to deal with the situation, particularly if you want to keep working there.

2. Stand up for yourself.

While it’s never your responsibility to engage with a harasser, sometimes setting boundaries is all that’s required. Depending on your comfort level and the power differential involved, the easiest course of action might be to confront the situation head on. Sometimes, though, just standing up for yourself is the only way to make them stop.

Just make sure to keep it professional. This approach depends on clear communication, so resist the temptation to temper your remarks with too much humor or deflection. Above all, make sure that you’d be happy to have your actions and words reported to your superiors. You don’t want to open the door to complaints about your own behavior.

3. Report.

Depending on how pervasive the sexist behavior is, you may need to get help from your boss or HR representative. It’s important that you document the offense, particularly if it is a repeat behavior. You’ll also want to report how the sexist actions and/or words are interfering with your efficiency and productivity in the workplace.

4. Move on.

if you’ve attempted to address the inappropriate behavior without significant or satisfactory results, you should take a hard look at whether it’s worth it to feel like a second-class citizen every day. Is the job really worth it?

Tell Us What You Think

Have you dealt with sexual harassment at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Esther Lombardi
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