Maintaining a respectful atmosphere in the workplace benefits the psychological wellness of everyone. Unfortunately, some people resort to using jokes to mask or downplay sexual harassment.
When this happens, it perpetuates an unhealthy on-the-job environment. The impact of such inappropriate behavior remains no laughing matter.
Recognizing the problem
Everyone must realize that sexual harassment manifests in various forms, including humor. Offenders will make off-handed remarks, share explicit jokes or engage in innuendo. Then, they suggest their words are not worth getting upset over.
The impact on the targets of harassment
Sexual harassment in any form can be emotionally and psychologically traumatizing. When perpetrators disguise their true intentions, it blurs the lines between appropriate and inappropriate conduct. Distinguishing a harmless bit of comedy from intentionally bothering someone can be a difficult task. In the face of this challenge, uncomfortable workers may internalize their distress and fail to file a report.
Perpetuating a toxic culture
Allowing sexual harassment to masquerade as innocent banter fosters a toxic workplace culture. When inappropriate incidents go unchallenged, it sends a message that such conduct is acceptable. This leads to a hostile environment where employees are reluctant to express their concerns. This problem is more prevalent than many realize, as only 58% of workers report the harassing behaviors they witness or experience.
Preventing and addressing the issue
Employers are duty-bound to take proactive measures against sexual harassment. Employers must establish clear policies against misbehavior, conduct training programs and encourage open communication. Additionally, creating channels for employees to file reports confidentially can empower them to come forward.
The use of humor to disguise sexual harassment is a serious issue that demands addressing. By taking proactive steps, organizations can create a happier and more productive workspace for everyone.