SME climate for sexual harassment: incidence and effects

Unfortunately, as HR departments invariably hold primary responsibility for developing, implementing, managing and enforcing the policies, procedures and practices creating psychological climates that could limit workplace sexual harassment, we suggest that the absence of such a department will leave many SMEs vulnerable to this form of interpersonal aggression. Without a formal department charged with the responsibility to proactively address the issue of harassment, the likelihood increases that the guidelines necessary to encourage appropriate workplace conduct, and the penalties for dissuading improper behavior, will be absent. As such, SMEs would become more vulnerable to experiencing increases in the prevalence of this type of aggression. Any lack of formalized attention given to this issue may also have indirect negative effects on employees’ perceptions. More specifically, the absence of sexual harassment policies, procedures and practices may implicitly communicate to workers that their employer condones this behavior and similar forms of mistreatment and unfairness. Reasoning that formal steps to address sexual harassment would be taken if those in positions of legitimate authority were concerned about this issue and employee well-being, the perception that management does not care about staff may result, which in turn, may produce a number of detrimental secondary effects (e.g. reduced loyalty and satisfaction, perceptions of injustice, reduced performance). Thus, tolerant sexual harassment climates may not only encourage more frequent expressions of sexually harassing behaviors, but also exacerbate the suffering of targets and detrimentally impact organizations.

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