Understanding sexual harassment in the workplace takes far more than simply looking at the impact of sexual or romantic attraction. Certainly, those things matter in some cases, but experts note that power is actually a huge contributing factor, showing that status and influence may have more to do with it than anything.
Would someone use sexual harassment as a way to control other workers? Would they use it to show their own power or try to get their way? The root cause may not lie in attraction at all.
Power can also change the way that people view behaviors and the workplace itself. They’re simply not seeing it the same way, and it can lead to dangerous and destructive relationships.
“This is something crucial in understanding sexual harassment as perpetrators may be less capable of understanding the emotions of their victims,” one professor said after studying the psychological impact. “Power-holders exert different types of behaviors. Powerful individuals are more likely to be action-focused and make first moves.”
They may also feel protected by their position of power. This is why you often hear stories that involve a supervisor harassing someone who works under him or her. That powerful person in the workplace may actually hold the other person’s employment status in their hands, so they can use the threat of job loss as an intimidating factor to keep people from speaking up.
It is very important for victims of sexual harassment to know that the law is on their side. They must understand all of their options when working in a hostile workplace or getting fired for bringing these events to light.