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The truth behind sexual harassment at workplace: Five signs to watch out for

Sexual harassment at the workplace is rampant. From inappropriate behaviour on the online platform to so called ‘harmless flirting’ — here are a few ways to help you combat it.

sex and relationships Updated: Apr 27, 2017 07:36 IST
Abhinav Verma
Sexual Harassment
Women should watch out for subtle signs of harassment.

After Arunabh Kumar, the founder of The Viral Fever, an online entertainment YouTube channel, filmmaker Vikas Bahl, directer of the film, Queen, has also been accused of sexual harassment at workplace by female employees. Such incidences have created a furore on social media. They have finally brought to limelight the unspoken problem of workplace sexual harassment in this country. Though we are aware of the term ‘sexual harassment’, we lack clarity on what kinds of behaviour constitutes for it. A consulting firm, HRhelpdesk.in, recently did a nationwide research on workplace sexual harassment and put together insights by talking to women across the country.

Vikas Bahl and Arunabh Kumar have been accused of sexually harassing their female employees at work.

Here are some subtle signs to watch out for at office to know if you’re being harassed:

Experiencing bullying and harassment in office by women in not uncommon. (HRhelpdesk.in)

Sexist behaviour: Actor-author Twinkle Khanna recently pointed out that calling someone sexy at workplace isn’t appropriate. If your colleagues make sexist jokes towards you, chances are that you’re being harassed. “In many workplaces, the abusers prior starting their sexual harassment actions, use sexist behaviour. This strategy is used to suppress the women employee; to make them feel small and weak prior starting the real harassment act. Sexist behaviours are identified by actions where co-worker or a senior employee passes comments like, ‘ this portfolio is not suitable for you because you are a woman’ or ‘you got promoted because you’re a woman’ or using the age old jokes that say women are not good. Generally sexist behaviour may not be termed as a direct sexual harassment action but such an act should be taken as red alarm by the victim that their silence may welcome something worse tomorrow,” says Shivani Misri Sadhoo, psychologist.

A statistical data that show how women face discrimination. (HRhelpdesk.in)

The so called harmless flirting: Getting a compliment isn’t a bad thing. But, if a compliment makes you feel sexually objectified, it’s a sign of sexual harassment. If a colleague disrespects your personal space and touches you, report it to the HR.

Different forms of harassment faced by women. (HRhelpdesk.in)

Inappropriate online behaviour: If one of your colleagues sends you personal messages on your phone, social media accounts, making you feel uncomfortable, then it’s unacceptable. Your colleagues need to maintain professional and personal boundaries. Violation of these boundaries is considered as sexual harassment. “Sexual harassment is getting more and more subtle. Sending sexualised forwarded messages on whatsapp, out of proportion compliments at work, sending work related requests at odd hours, frequent requests for out of office meetings all account to sexual harassment. Although the victim is often confused whether it is harassment or not, it’s always better to pay attention to your instincts as they never lie,” says Pulkit Sharma, psychologist.

Various forms of sexual harassment behaviour. (HRhelpdesk.in)

Maintaining personal space: If your colleagues don’t respect your personal space and constantly touch or pat you, despite you telling them to stop, then you’re being harassed.

A bar graph chart showing behaviours demonstrated during non-confrontation approach. (HRhelpdesk.in)

The quid pro quo stance: Your senior colleagues shouldn’t make statements such as, “Come, lets go for dinner. I’m your boss,” and then hint at returning the favour in kind. This is sexual harassment. The quid pro quo behaviour along with coercion is strict no-no at workplace. “We must highlight the suppressed voices of women facing sexual harassment which is not only plaguing the organisational culture but also failing diversity programmes. Through this survey, we found out that respect and dignity at the workplace, which women deserve as an equal member of the workforce, is often absent in workplaces. This kind of behaviour not only pushes women away from the corporate world, but also forces them to curtail their career ambitions post career breaks,” says Amarpreet Kaur, founder, HRhelpdesk.in.

A bar graph chart showing behaviourial patterns. (HRhelpdesk.in)