Study: Men who fear being seen as incompetent are prone to sexually harassing subordinates
- Is there a link between powerful men, incompetency and sexual harassment? New research suggests that there might be, according to Springer Link, publishers of scientific reports. From the results of three scientific studies, researchers concluded that men with power in the workplace who thought others perceived them as incompetent are more prone to sexually harassing female subordinates.
- The researchers also conclude that, among male power-holders, sexual harassment doesn't just stem from sexual desire, but also from the harasser's desire to protect his social status when he thinks his status is being threatened. Researchers theorize that men's sexual harassment of women is about trying to uphold the gender hierarchy.
- The researchers challenge the idea that men, as sexual predators in the workplace, are granted too much power, but that, instead, their behavior stems from the belief that others think they're ill-suited to their positions and unworthy of the power they have.
Employers can use scientific, detailed studies like this to better understand sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct in the workplace, and perhaps gain some insight into how to prevent it. Traditionally, sexual harassment is viewed as something perpetrated by men in higher positions, but the study also suggests that anyone with power, including a shift manager, could threaten those beneath them. In essence: Focusing prevention efforts on high-powered execs only won't be enough.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements enlightened many on the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct in the workplace and the supposed willingness of employers to "look the other way" or cover up allegations with nondisclosure agreements. Employers can't afford these kinds of responses, on both a moral level and a business one. Today's job seekers are reviewing employers' ratings online and passing up on workplaces with negative reputations or damaged brands. And unhappy employees leave for less toxic work environments.
HR professionals must follow up on complaints, investigate them and enforce workplace policies — protecting the company's interests by protecting the people, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission member Chai Feldblum said at a recent conference. In turn, HR managers should be supported when they do take complaints seriously and launch an investigation.