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No Excuse

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Harassment at the workplace seems to be on the rise, but so is awareness of the issue. Sunny Rodricks brings you tips to overcome harassment and subtle signs to watch out for

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination may not be as straightforward as you might think. There are subtle ways in which you may be harassed or discriminated against for no good reason. Here, we’re telling you about the different forms of harassment, so that you know how to deal with it if it ever happens, and bringing you subtle signs that you may have been ignoring, with valuable inputs from Dr. Shefali Batra, senior consultant psychiatrist and therapist, and Sonali Tanksale, clinical psychologist at AXIS Hospital.


The reason that women don’t speak up about harassment in the workplace is mainly fear. Dr. Shefali tells us, “Fear of not getting justice, fear of losing their jobs, fear of it worsening if the perpetrator is a senior and the lack of a strong organizational culture to back them up are few reasons women stay silent about workplace harassment.” But you don’t have to tolerate harassment. Speak up, or at the very least, talk to someone who might be able to help you take the next step to stamping it out.


Gender harassment

Gender harassment takes place in the form of passing lewd comments, making jokes or poking fun at a woman just because she is a woman. It also happens under the guise of flirting, innuendo or insults thrown at a person, meant to degrade them and damage their self confidence.

Example: Passing comments about a woman’s skin colour or body type.

Seductive behaviour

In this form of harassment, the culprit tries to make inappropriate sexual advances towards the victim. This could be in the form of inappropriate staring, touching or suggestive gestures or comments. Sometimes, the harasser will touch a woman without her consent or in subtle ways.

Example: A co-worker sending you pictures or videos that are sexual in nature.

Sexual bribery

Here, the perpetrator promises a reward or perks in exchange for sexual favours. This type of harassment comes with the threat (revealed or hidden) of the victim losing their job.

Example: A senior at work pushing for a one-night stand in return of a promotion or a pay hike.

Sexual coercion

Sexual coercion occurs when the harasser uses tactics such as threats, pressure, trickery or emotional force to get consent for sexual acts. Even encouraging someone to have too many drinks could be considered sexual coercion.

Example: Blackmailing a co-worker about her love life.

Sexual imposition

Sexual imposition refers to making unwanted sexual contact. Here the culprit touches another person inappropriately for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Example: A boss caressing his secretary’s back even if in a seemingly harmless manner.

Potential signs of harassment

  • Lewd comments, derogatory remarks or gender bias.
  • Unwanted touching, groping or staring.
  • When the occasional compliment turns into constant flirting or innuendo.
  • Using one’s power and/or position for immoral reasons or for favours.
  • Asking for sexual pleasure in exchange of promotions or pay hikes.
  • Giving you office work at unearthly hours or communicating with you in an unprofessional manner via social media.
  • Sharing pictures or videos with sexual content to influence you.
  • Sexting or sending objectionable images and then apologising.
  • Trying to force you to do things that you don’t want to do, such as dinner dates or drinking at a party.
  • Standing too close to you and talking in an inappropriately intimate manner.
  • Asking about your personal life, including your romantic or sexual experiences.

How to deal with harassment

Sonali says, “Sexual harassment at the workplace can have very serious consequences on the individual being harassed as well as working women who experience it second-hand.” Follow these tips to deal with harassment at the workplace.

  • Educate yourself on what constitutes harassment.
  • Seek medical help and counselling immediately if you have been victimised.
  • Know that you are not alone. And, you are definitely not the one to be blamed!
  • Talk to someone trustworthy about it.
  • Consider informing the police.
  • Listen to your feelings.
  • Keep a detailed record of the incident.
  • Confront the harasser directly in public.
  • Inform your supervisor or HR manager.
  • Know your company’s sexual harassment policy.
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