Being the one on the receiving end of harassment is never an easy position to be in. When faced with the situation, no one can be quite sure how they will react, and how they react cannot be judged as right or wrong. How one reacts might also depend on where the harassment occurred. If you are at a bar and someone makes an inappropriate joke or touches you in an inappropriate way, you might speak up and say “hey!”

What if the harassment occurs at work? It might be easier to stop a stranger, but what if your job is on the line? Some people fear that standing up against a supervisor might mean a negative performance review, being passed up for a promotion or even losing their job, and these do occur despite the fact that the law prohibits employers from doing so. Some employees might not speak up to avoid these consequences, but could keeping quiet actually make things worse?

One study took a hard look at a very difficult situation. The study was conducted by a professor of business ethics and focused on what happens when a harassed employee doesn’t speak up. Instead of looking at the viewpoint of the harassed, the study focused on the viewpoint of the co-workers. Many people assume that they will respond a certain way in a situation – like standing up against harassment – despite the fact that they may not do so if it were to actually happen to them.

This assumption is where the problem occurs, the study concluded. Those who assume that an individual should act a certain way may judge others who don’t respond how the individual predicts that he or she would in the same situation. So when someone else doesn’t live up to their expectations, they can see them as “passive victims,” treating them differently as co-workers and only exacerbating the hostile situation.

Source: Business News Daily, “Why Unreported Sexual Harassment Can Bring Ridicule,” Chad Brooks, Nov. 6, 2012

Some victims of racial or sexual harassment feel like they are alone, but that is not the case. Our Missouri law firm helps give employees the courage to stand up and hold employers accountable for their actions.