An Expert’s Top 3 Tips For Dealing With Workplace Sexual Harassment

The past few months have been big for change. Companies have been called out for systemic racism. The Supreme Court gave LGBTQ workers federal civil rights. Sexual predators are having a renewed #MeToo moment. Powers-that-be are being held to account. That’s phenomenal for social progress. It’s also horrible for workplace sexual harassment.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (amidst an already heinous 2020), but you’ll want to beware of increased sexual harassment when you’re on the job, as harassholes hate this new world.

Here’s the skinny: Workplace sexual harassment is a power play. Basically, harassers are insecure people who want to make you feel small because they find you threatening and/or seek a power boost.

Don’t get it twisted, though: Sexual harassment doesn’t have to be sexual. What matters is that you’re being targeted because of your gender or sexual identity.

Harassholes may try to “put you in your place” by using typical sexualized come-ons, like ogling your goodies in the office, jumping in your DMs to ask you out for the umpteenth time, or promising you a promotion in exchange for a Netflix and chill. Or, harassholes may leverage hostile put-downs that humiliate you, like calling you crude names on conference calls, cutting you out of morning meetings, berating you for not dressing the way a woman “should” dress. The displays of disrespect are limitless.

Now that our new world is pushing for greater respect for marginalized persons, women included, harassholes see our world as a less hospitable place for their antics. They’re frustrated about not being able to mistreat you and others with impunity, and they’ll try to reclaim their sense of power by stepping up their harassment game. Protect your purse and your mental health by being prepared.

Here are three quick tips to help you beat workplace sexual harassment:

Identify The Harassholes

You may be a butterfly, but harassholes aren’t very unique. They tend to have shared traits, among them being gender. Men make up some 90% of harassholes. In addition to that, they’re more likely to embrace these characteristics:

⭐︎ Support traditional gender roles

⭐︎ Maintain a strong male identity

⭐︎ Think men are superior to women

⭐︎ Believe men and women should be segregated

⭐︎ Sexualize women, girls, and LGBTQ people

⭐︎ Trivialize victimization or engage in victim-blaming

⭐︎ Lack egalitarian attitudes toward gender and/or race

You can spot these traits by listening to what a harasshole says about gender and sexual identity. For instance, harassholes often think men are better suited for traditionally male jobs and leadership positions whereas women should be in “pink careers,” stay-at-home moms, or in supporting roles. Harassholes use activities and terms typically associated with women to demean other men, such as calling a man a “pussy” or promising to wear a dress in public as part of a bet. These are the dudes who use stereotypes about women as punch lines. 

The thing is, there’s nothing funny about harassholes. Keep an eye out for them and remember—just because someone isn’t a harasshole to you, doesn’t mean they’re not harassing another colleague. Harassholes are shady shapeshifters.

Document, Document, Document

Your records of what happened are essential to beating workplace sexual harassment. Why? Memories fade. Plus, there’s a 99% chance that the harasshole (and your employer) will lie. Avoid the he said, she said situation by documenting what went down. On your personal computer or encrypted email, maintain a log of the who, what, when, where, and how of the experience like you’re writing a bland yet detailed screenplay. Also, attach supporting documents such as text messages, emails, DMs, and notes. 

You’ll want to have it all, especially if you ever need to speak out or if you suffer retaliation. Documentation can make the difference between getting the heave-ho with nothing and getting out of a company on your own terms with solid references and a strong severance.

Always Trust Your Instincts

Pay attention to that still small voice that echoes within when you’re uncomfortable. Never try to override your instincts with rationalization. You know what you’re sensing, what you experienced, and what you need not tolerate. Don’t ignore it.

Do ignore gaslighting and shade-throwing coworkers. As much as I hate to say it, research shows that some coworkers will try to discourage you from speaking out about sexual harassment and many will distance themselves from you for fear of being mistreated by your employer too. That’s a bummer. But it doesn’t mean you should “take one for the team” by keeping quiet. Real friends won’t insist you be disrespected and won’t try to deny your reality.

Stick close to your instincts, demand to be treated with respect, and do you. You may not be The Boss, but you are a boss and you deserve to work in a harassment-free workplace.

Adrienne Lawrence is an on-air legal analyst and the author of Staying in the Game: The Playbook for Beating Workplace Sexual Harassment (TarcherPerigee, 2020). Lawrence has contributed her insight on workplace sexual harassment for outlets such as the Harvard Business Review and NPR. Follow her on Twitter @AdrienneLaw and IG @AdrienneLawrence

Images: Song_about_summer/ Shutterstock.com

What The Industry You Work In Says About You

The following is an excerpt from our new book, “When’s Happy Hour? Work Hard So You Can Hardly Work”, on sale NOW.

Job environment plays a huge factor in whether it would be a good fit . Say you’re really good at beauty tutorials but you wouldn’t ever want to work in a big gray-carpeted corporate office, then maybe the right route for you is freelance makeup artist. On the other hand, say you need deadlines to work, love brainstorming, and seriously care what people comment on each other’s Instagrams, well then, maybe you should be in media. Let’s discuss popular industries and what it’s like to work in them.

Fashion/PR

Exactly as The Devil Wears Prada led you to believe this job would be. Even though fashion is starting to be a little more accepting of sizes above subzero, people are still quite focused on appearance. They praise Ashley Graham on Instagram but talk sh*t about her thighs behind her back. This industry is harsh, self-important, and doesn’t really pay that much. Why are people in it? Because they care about seeming cool, or maybe because they actually give a sh*t what Pantone’s color of the year is.

Tech

If we learned anything from Silicon Valley, it’s that this world is changing faster than your tampon on a heavy-flow day. This can be highly stressful but if you’re a really skilled developer, coder, or engineer, then this is fine for you. If you’re not that good, you’ll know right away because you won’t get work or you’ll get eaten alive. If you’re a female techie, now’s the time to swing for the fences, as tech companies are needing to even out their ratios for press purposes because they believe in diversity and being socially conscious, of course.

Media/Advertising

If you’re personable, outgoing and looking for a bullsh*t job where you get to do very little but have the opportunity to be paid more down the road, find a media job in a a large corporate company. All media companies are competing with one another, so they’re all spending a sh*t ton of money on pointless employee perks like beer on tap, expensive beverages that claim to be healthier than water, and the ability to work on a couch in a different room from your desk. Gasp.

Entertainment

You have to do an incredible amount of bitch work, ass-kissing, and sliding into people’s DMs to move up in this industry. Like, if you even want to write on a show, the amount of coffee you need to retrieve in your career will surpass the amount of alcohol you drank in college. If you really want to be the next Ava DuVernay, though, know that it’s going to be a lot of rejection and disappointment, but it is possible to get there, so keep going.

Career Student

Rewarding AF. Not financially, though. And the only time that philosophy degree will help you is when you’re discussing Game of Thrones fan theories.

Medicine/Law

Even though the two are different, we grouped them together because they’re similar in that you have to put in a lot of work and hours—and also money—with very little sleep or salary to make a lot of money at some point very far in the future. Plus, you have to be really into reading to succeed in either field.

Finance

You’ll have to deal with a lot of bros and douchebags to be in this industry. Everyone talks really fast and assumes you know what they’re talking about when they use terms like EBIDTA and vested equity. Couldn’t care less about changing interest rates? Then don’t go into finance.

All The Other Sh*t, Like Agriculture

Honestly, this industry is the hardest to write about because we know very little about it. Aleen went to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, yet still, not much info from us. Farmers have one of the most important jobs in the country, and do you know what they have to rely on? The weather. That’s right, the weather. And then they have to deal with these huge corporations forcing them to accept buy-outs or kicking them off their land.

Yes, we left out a lot of different industries because, you know what, there are way too f*cking many, and you know what else? You’ll get over it.

Want more amazing career advice? Order our new book, you won’t regret it.
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