Article image

Most employers failing to address sexual harassment since #MeToo

A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) has revealed that only 32 percent of Americans have seen new steps taken by their employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, despite national attention on the issue prompted by the #MeToo movement.

According to the respondents, a simple review of existing policies and resources has been the most common action taken to address sexual harassment.

Only 10 percent of workers reported that their employer has added more training or resources related to sexual harassment in the months since it has been spotlighted in the media as a serious, ongoing problem.

Among those surveyed, just eight percent said stricter sexual harassment policies have been implemented at work, while only seven percent said that a company meeting has been organized to discuss the issue.

David W. Ballard is the director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. He said that the lack of meaningful change is not entirely surprising, but it is disappointing.

“The #MeToo movement has given business leaders an opportunity to finally take real action addressing a complex problem that has been pervasive for generations,” said Ballard.

“Our survey – as well as anecdotal reports – shows that too few employers are making comprehensive efforts that can have significant impact. Avoiding the issue is bad for employee well-being and business, but so, too, is a narrow, compliance-based approach. We know from psychological science that relying solely on mandated training designed primarily to limit the organization’s legal liability is unlikely to be effective.”

The majority of employees that work for organizations with women in senior leadership roles were found to be more likely to report sexual harassment at work or confront a co-worker engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior compared with employees who did not have women in leadership positions.

Among survey respondents, those with employers who had made efforts to tackle sexual harassment at work reported higher job satisfaction and more motivation to do their best work compared to respondents with employers who had not taken new steps to confront the issue of sexual harassment.

In addition, twice as many employees felt that they were provided with the necessary resources to help meet their mental health needs and to manage their stress in organizations where leaders had resurrected the subject of sexual harassment.

“Sexual harassment at work occurs within a broader context,” said Ballard. “For training to produce long-term changes, the organization’s workplace practices need to align with and support the individual attitudes and behaviors it’s trying to promote. Leaders in a psychologically healthy workplace model civility, respect, fairness and trust. In an organizational culture where every employee feels safe, supported and included, people can be their best, and that’s good for people and profits.”

As a result of high profile lawsuits and terminations in recent headlines, around half of American workers said they are now more likely to report inappropriate sexual behavior or confront a co-worker who is engaging in sexual harassment.

The research was collected as part of APA’s 2018 Work and Well-Being Survey.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day