It’s often assumed that sexual harassment in the workplace occurs because of an attraction between two workers. This may not go both ways, of course, but this may not stop one worker from wanting to be in a relationship with the other. The result could be harassment of that other worker, who doesn’t return their feelings and doesn’t want the relationship.
It is certainly true that these events do play out in some situations, but it’s actually not that common. Most of the time, sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t about attraction at all. Instead, it is about power. Here’s what you should know:
A demonstration of standing
What sexual harassment does is that it demonstrates that one person has a higher standing in the company than another. It is a demonstration of that power that they hold on the corporate ladder – a very important ideal in the American business world.
This is why you often have a difference in power levels between the two people. For example, perhaps the harassment comes from an office manager, and it is directed at the employees that person is supposed to manage. Or maybe the harassment comes from the CEO or the owner of the company, and it is directed at their secretary.
In cases like this, what’s really being done is that the person with the position of power is exercising that over the other. Since moving up that corporate ladder is so important to many employees, they may see this as a way to do it or to solidify their career.
Additionally, the power imbalance can make harassment possible. The person with higher standing assumes they can intimidate the other into keeping quiet to protect their job and professional reputation.
What can you do?
Of course, you don’t deserve to be harassed on the job for any reason. If you have been experiencing this type of treatment, you may need to know about all of your legal options.