Researchers show that sexual harassment on the job still carries large impact

December 6, 2017 by Herb Booth
M. Ann McFadyen, UTA associate professor of strategic management, and James Campbell Quick, the John and Judy Goolsby-Jacqualyn A. Fouse Endowed Chair in UTA's Goolsby Leadership Academy, revisited sexual harassment issues in the workplace. Credit: UT Arlington

Two University of Texas at Arlington researchers have revisited workplace sexual harassment issues after the initial study was done nearly 20 years ago.

How well is society doing?

The answer is mixed. Although there has been a 28 percent decline in complaints, sexual harassment is a continuing, chronic problem in the .

James Campbell Quick, the John and Judy Goolsby-Jacqualyn A. Fouse Endowed Chair in UTA's Goolsby Leadership Academy, initially published the report in a 1998 special section on sexual harassment in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Quick and M. Ann McFadyen, a UTA associate professor of strategic management, conducted the review earlier this year. It comes at a time when noteworthy sexual harassment and assault incidents have permeated all aspects of American society.

"Our current examination of the evidence suggests that sexual harassment is a continuing occupational problem," Quick said. "Have we made progress? Yes, there has been progress on some fronts but not on others and the problem has morphed, becoming more complicated for a variety of reasons found in the current data."

Society and the workplace continue to struggle with the very definition of sexual harassment, which limits the ability to develop effective strategies in the workplace.

Plus, McFadyen said that the workforce is changing.

"Sexual harassment in the workplace is costly, not just to the organization," McFadyen said. "The behavior impacts the victim, the aggressor, bystanders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders in terms of tarnished reputations and trust, disengaged employees, decreased commitment, turnover, depression, stress, eating and other health disorders and in extreme cases bodily harm, even death."

She said that the recent publicity regarding sexual harassment is a signal of the beginning of a revolutionary change in the workplace demanding a different type of training.

"Training not only for leaders and management but employees at all ranks, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders," McFadyen said. "Successful leaders and management of organizations cannot afford to simply maintain the status quo."

Both believe that there is a real need from a public heath perspective to know more about the aggressors' use of power in sexual harassment cases.

The two professors believe that if the workplace is equipped with this information, surveillance indicators and systems can be put into place to address this preventable occupational health problem.

Antonio Puente, the American Psychological Association president, used the Quick-McFadyen report in a letter to members last month.

"Sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant problem," Puente said. "Psychological research has offered understanding into the causes of , as well as some strategies for preventing or reducing it. However, there is limited research regarding the characteristics of harassers, which makes it difficult to predict who will do it and where and when it might happen. What we do know is that harassers tend to lack a social conscience and engage in manipulative, immature, irresponsible and exploitative behaviors."

He said organizations need to be proactive in establishing policies prohibiting , raising employee awareness, establishing reporting procedures and educating employees about these policies.

"More research is needed to identify the antecedents to that will help employees and managers identify and respond appropriately," Puentes said.

Explore further: Workplace sexual harassment 'a chronic problem,' says APA president

Related Stories

Workplace sexual harassment 'a chronic problem,' says APA president

November 16, 2017
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive, chronic problem that can cause enduring psychological harm, according to the president of the American Psychological Association.

Workplace sexual harassment ongoing in women, up for men

November 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—Sexual harassment (SH) is a continuing occupational health problem, according to a report published recently in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Sexual harassment by colleagues may be associated with more severe depression

September 24, 2017
Employees who experience sexual harassment by supervisors, colleagues or subordinates in the workplace may develop more severe symptoms of depression than employees who experience harassment by clients or customers, according ...

MeToo no more?

December 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—From the hills of Hollywood to the halls of Congress, it's now clear that sexual harassment in the workplace has long been a fact of life for working women.

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.