Subtle Signs Of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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Sexual harassment is a serious issue, but that doesn’t mean it’s always an obvious one. Counselors and attorneys who assist individuals who have suffered harm from unlawful conduct at work know that abusers will often try to disguise their behavior. What’s more, the actions that qualify as sexual harassment are not always clear cut, so there are situations that you and a co-worker could interpret in different ways, leading to doubt about whether or not an action was actually misconduct. Here are some of those not so obvious signs you should be on the lookout for that might indicate harassment.

There’s A Clear Gender Disparity At The Workplace

If you’re noticing clear splits along gender lines, there’s a chance that a culture may be in place at the workplace that tolerates harassment. Are women routinely getting the worst assignments, being judged more harshly than other employees, and, in general, more disrespected? This could mean that someone higher up has an axe to grind and that there’s a proverbial “boy’s club” running the show, creating a workplace culture designed to intimidate female coworkers.

There Are Behaviors That Skirt The Line

Very clear instances of sexual harassment include behaviors like asking for sexual favors in exchange for career advancement or touching someone else without permission. There are other behaviors that push the limits of acceptable, however, and these can also be indicative of misconduct. They include stuff like:

  • Encroaching on personal space or standing too close
  • Comments on appearance
  • Sexists comments (such as women can’t do “X” as well as men)
  • Speaking in an intimate manner and trying to start conversations about romantic or sexual topics
  • Catcalling, whistling, and sexual gestures
  • Giving others sexually-charged gifts
  • Attempts to arrange for contact outside of work
  • Sharing of pornographic materials

If you notice these behaviors occurring around your workplace, that’s a signal that misconduct is afoot, and these sorts of actions definitely warrant further investigation.

Fear Is Rampant

If there is fear in the workplace, then something is drastically wrong. Fear caused by inappropriate sexual behaviors might manifest in several different ways. It could be that people feel pressured to go along with certain questionable behaviors, with managers making comments to excuse the harasser of wrongdoing. 

There might also be fear of making a complaint, because the accuser believes it won’t be believed or that they will face reprisal. If you see this going on where you work, it’s usually a sign that harassment is, at the least, tacitly approve

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