Musings #5: The Undiscussed: Sexual Harassment in the workplace.
I’m penning this down, not with the high hopes of changing the world, but to encourage
1. ladies out there who put in their best at work, beat deadlines, carry out all assigned tasks, but still get denied promotions, work benefits, leaves, travel grants because they debuncted sexual advances from the boss or a higher personnel.
2. Women who have to cry themselves to sleep most nights asking repeatedly what they may have done wring to deserve ill treatments from an embittered sexually starved boss.
3. Ladies who are currently 'fine' but keep thinking if it was their fault that they were beautiful, endowed and intelligent at the same time.
4. Ladies who are forced to think that "Every other lady is doing it"
5. Ladies thinking of giving in.
6. Ladies thinking of quitting.
If you are a lady and you fall into any of those categories, if there's any consolation,let it be that you are not alone.
We live in a world where it is very easy to tell a woman, he didn’t rape you did he? He isn’t threatening rape is he? Don’t you know its normal? Aren’t you both adults? Without ever considering the emotional and mental strain having to go to work every morning to meet a Casanova boss or colleague can cause. The ineffectiveness and tension and long faces it could bring on some days, the feeling of inadequacy and imposter it could bring and the confusion, the confusion.
It’s 2020 and work has resumed and some of these ladies has set goals for work but remembering the advances, they find themselves in a state of dismal pismal. What if he continues the harassment? What if a "favorite" colleague keeps getting promoted for unknown reasons while I continue to lay low?
How do you get off this hook without loosing your job along side it.
Now for some us who don’t get it yet, the scenarios I’ve painted are office sexual harassments and they come in different forms, and are faced by both genders. My focus on this post is the women, who are always mostly on the ugly side of the hook.
Sexual harassment is a behaviour characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation.
Now, mind you, I scanned the internet for tips to avoid sexual harassment in the office, I saw some ideas which mostly involved CEOs setting standards for their organization. So now the question is "What if the CEO is the one harassing you?" or if the harasser is someone in a higher office cader and whom any claims you make on will mostly sound unbelievable.
I made few researches from Nigerian firms, and this situation is really pitiable, Sadly, we’re in a lawless country where the biggest pocket, and the loudest voice wins. So mostly some "rules” and tips I found online don’t apply here.
I had to reach out to some "Nigerian" Ladies, some who had been victims at some point, to get ideas on how to abate office sexual harassment (twitter, emails, DM, personal interviews) and I have summarized what I found in 5 points below.
I hope it helps a lady out there.
5 ways to Stop Sexual Harassment at Work (I hope these tips works)
1. Don’t quit yet. It’s true that 80% of the answers I got advised the lady to quit, as it is, I don’t believe that to be the best idea, yet. The truth remains that, quitting isn’t going to prevent the next lady from falling prey to the office predators waiting to devour. The moment you step out, a vacancy is created for another unsuspecting young lady to step in to a mind trap. Hence, I do not advise that you quit, not just yet (unless the situation is life threatening).
You might want to argue otherwise, but have you thought about some ladies who have such jobs as their only means of livelihood? Pause a bit before you call it quits.
2. Inasmuch as there exists lawlessness on a certain level in the country, some offices still have a working system. Does the 'harasser' have a superior? You don’t have to report directly to his superior (if its just your word against his). He is bound to deny vehemently, making you look stupid and eventually up his games at making the office place hell and uncomfortable for you. Hence, you have to devise a means to beat him to his own game. If he is someone, you reply directly to, make your reports as transparent as possible(have copies). Make your dealings carefully and so clearly that his misdoings will be easily noticed by your superiors and even fellow staff. Your superior might be the ones wanting to hear from you. They’d suspect it, and they’ll call.
3. Have an evidence.
As a friend advised, having an evidence doesn’t necessary serve the purpose of been taken to the police (whose judgements are most times beclouded) for apprehension of the ‘harasser’. You can surreptitiously have recordings and pictures of him harassing you and play it to your superior or if you have the chance, all workers. If the harasser is texting, emailing or sending cards or notes, keep copies. Don’t delete them. Make sure you take a screen shot of any texts and print them so you don’t lose them if your device crashes or you buy a new one. Print out emails, too, and keep them in a safe place
This might not get him arrested, but will definitely trim his wings and let everyone (ladies) in the office know about what’s going behind the curtains,including others he has harassed.
4. Speak up
This is the most neglected part of the whole situation. Victims of sexual harassment in offices never speak about it until they resign/leave the company.
I found out later that this occurs because the ladies in question lack the courage to confide in other ladies in the workplace, probably because of the paranoia which arise from the fact that, the confidant might already have been a victim or a ‘favour-seeking' tell-tale who might eventually burst the tales thereby getting you ‘into trouble’, sacked or even more dealt with.
A lady said she couldn’t speak up because she started having a feeling that every other lady in the office had given in at some point.
While this is grossly incorrect and a misdirected line of thought, it is important know that these things exist. Please you have speak to a trusted colleague. She might have been a victim too,and knowing you’re two in this can get you fortified against attacks. Not speaking to someone is a tool some of this predators use. They could tell you that you’ll get fired if you ever speak to someone about their advance, or they’d tell you to be ‘matured' and keep it to yourself. You’ll be helping them and causing them to find more foot to play other ladies if you fail to speak up.
Yes, I said not to earlier, but quit if you exhausted all the points mentioned. Quit if it’s becoming life threatening, emotionally distabilizing and mentally disrupting. You matter a lot and if a boss does not see this beautiful brain of yours and only wants to keep you on the condition that you trade your body, against your wish, then please, show yourself out before they eventually do.
If you’ve reported to superiors and they still won’t do anything about it, please, get the heck out. Start looking for openings elsewhere. Don’t be trapped.
Lastly, you have to note that, whatever you do in a company where sexual harassment has set in (especially if it is coming from your most superior_boss), there will always be two sides to this coin. You'll either keep the job or you quit/get fired.
Never forget to speak up/ report sexual harassment, there will be other victims and the behavior will get worse if you don’t.
Know you’re not alone, and that there are lots of ladies out there who passed through and are currently passing through same ordeals.
It’s only those who didn’t give in that eventually tells the story, never forget that. Keep developing yourself, and being the best version of you. A company will spend tons to keep you someday, not because of your gender, or physique but because of what you bring to the table.
Feel free to share your story.