Workplace harassment is a factor in every industry, but not all employees are comfortable speaking up about the harassment they experience at work.
The potential outcomes of exposing harassment may seem negative, based on the risks of reporting illegal behavior. However, there are also risks related to keeping it quiet.
Risks of saying something
One study showed that 75 percent of those who spoke up about their workplace harassment experienced retaliation as a result of doing so. This serves as a powerful deterrent to others who may wish to speak up about their own experiences.
Retaliation can take many forms, but often manifests as termination, demotion or pay reduction. When victims of harassment see that retaliation may result if they say something, keeping quiet becomes a more attractive option.
Risks of staying quiet
While it may seem safer to stay quiet and not tell anyone about workplace harassment, the truth is that staying quiet can have consequences that are not readily apparent. One consequence on a broad level is that if no victims speak up, the harassment will continue. Sometimes all it takes is one victim to come forward in order to stop a chain of harassment that is affecting many people in the workplace.
Harassment often takes a personal toll on an employee’s health. The stress, anxiety, shame and other difficult emotions that come from the experience of workplace harassment can cause physical and psychological symptoms.
Protections for employees who come forward
The law protects employees who decide to speak up about workplace harassment. It also protects employees from retaliation as a result of speaking up. Although the decision is not easy, it can bring many beneficial outcomes both in the short term and the long term, for the employee and the workplace as a whole.