No one has raised sexual harassment yet, but it's had a crippling effect on a number of companies. Love to hear thoughts...have you been a victim? Witnessed it? And how to prevent it?

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I was harassed by my direct supervisor while working on a contract. I reported it to HR and my contract was not renewed. These two things are almost definitely related because my performance review was stellar.

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So much fear around reporting this sort of thing, I understand that. Glad you took it seriously.

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I’ve been a victim of harassment when I was younger at another company. At the time, I was too scared to report (afraid of losing my job) but it was witnessed by a colleague and reported to the president (small company). The man was promptly fired. Since then, I’ve been harassed a few other times - larger companies where I reported, but the person was in a much higher position, and was told maybe I had misunderstood the groping he did (I didn’t) and he was talked to.

Then my passion to be in ethics and compliance took off, hopeful to prevent what happened to me.

In my current role, I’ve established a code of conduct, updated polices on harassment and implemented an anonymous helpline. I find the anonymity helps protect our employees and report wrongdoing, and clearly communicating with leadership support that we have zero tolerance for retaliation.

It’s so important for a company to establish clear expectations of behavior in the workplace, and stand firm on what will not be tolerated.

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I was the victim of sexual harassment at a three-day company event that included several of my coworkers and many of our clients from across the country. On opening night one of our clients came up behind me while I was playing a game and put her hands on the back pockets of my pants and squeeze. I later found out that she had done this after being dared to do so by one of my coworkers. (Both had been drinking a significant amount of alcohol.)

The experience was immediately disruptive and had a major impact on my experience for the rest of the event (which is usually the highlight of my year.) The client was one who I had built a fun friendship with the year before. The coworker is the person I work most closely with at my company. Both were people I trusted and I was totally unprepared to process everything I was feeling at that moment.

I’m typically one of the most extroverted and friendly people at the company, and everyone is used to seeing me chatting people up with a big smile on my face, but for the rest of the evening I just emotionally shut down. I wasn’t sobbing, I was just... blank. My brain was struggling to process my emotions.

Now to clarify, I do NOT believe the client who squeezed my butt was doing so to communicate a desire for sex. But just because that wasn’t her intention doesn’t mean it wasn’t sexual harassment. It was. And I think some people have the erroneous idea that sexual harassment only “counts” if it is intentional. I don’t believe that’s true.

Another thing I should point out is that I’m a straight man in my mid-30’s. The client who did this was an attractive woman of a similar age. Some people in our culture would look at these facts and say, “Then what’s the problem? Sounds like you got lucky, man!” And if you’re one of those people I would beg you to work on fixing that broken way of thinking.

Sexual harassment isn’t “fun” if the other person is “cute enough.” It’s not “flirting” if there’s an existing history between the parties involved. People think these factors matter but they 100% DO NOT.

After I got back to my hotel room that night, I got out my laptop and sent an email to our HR Manager. It was terrifying. Not because I was afraid of losing my job (I’m highly valued at the company.) Not because I thought I wouldn’t be taken seriously (we have EXCELLENT people on our HR team who take their jobs very seriously.) I was terrified because as soon as I sent the email, I would be giving up the option to just pretend it never happened. And that felt like a REALLY tempting option. It felt like the easiest thing for everybody.

But it also felt like the wrong thing. Because I know that if something like that had happened to one of my female coworkers, I would encourage them to speak up and say something rather than just stay silent. So how could I expect others to do that if I didn’t?

I believe my boss, my teammates, and the wonderful folks in HR who responded to my email all did their very best to support me. I could not have asked for better validation and compassion. But the rest of the week was STILL incredibly hard. I still had five presentations to give, and I worried at each one if that client was going to be in attendance and I’d have to see them while speaking. I still had a booth to cover in the middle of a crowded room, and I kept my butt glued to my chair until everyone was out of the room.

Sexual harassment is traumatic. I realize that sounds so obvious it’s stupid, but I think there are still a lot of people who don’t really get it. I think there are aspects of the experience that are really hard to understand if you haven’t lived it.

That’s why I’m posting my experience here. I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t need anyone to tell me how “brave” I was or anything like that. So please don’t clutter this conversation with any comments like that.

If you want to do something useful, ask me questions. Let me provide you with answers that may hopefully help clear up some misconceptions you may have. Toss out ideas that you think might have tried if you were one of the HR folks responding to me, and I’ll tell you whether that would’ve been helpful or not.

Hopefully we’ll be able to find some value in the experience, and you can feel better prepared to support others in the future.

- Dave

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I’ve witnessed a coworker imply harassment (I’m female too) by our mutual manager who had a very casual leadership style.

Started off casually mentioning things that honestly alarmed me, (like feeling pressure to hang out with him / work all the time and feeling uncomfortable by his comments and behavior). She backed down and said it wasn’t a big deal the minute I got serious and said the behavior should be reported.

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