Be Aware of the Office Cupid
- IWB Post
- March 25, 2015
OVER FRIENDLY CO-WORKER ALERT!
EXPERTS SAY THAT THERE IS A FINE LINE THAT SEPARATES A COMPLIMENT FROM HARASSMENT. HERE’S A GIST INTO WHAT EVERY WORKING INDIAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WORKPLACE HARASSMENT, IF YOU DON’T ALREADY.
Sexual harassment at the work place has been often discussed and debated in corporate circles. With reference to the Vishaka Guidelines, the law hopes to redress as well as prevent cases of sexual harassment in all workplaces across India. With many organizations bringing in stricter laws to keep it in check, it has become imperative for employees too to understand and differentiate between what makes a sexual harassment case and what doesn’t. Sometimes, an over-friendly gesture can be mistaken as a sexual advance. And on the other hand, sometimes one might not even recognize when the actual line is being crossed.
Srimathi Shivashankar, AVP , diversity and sustainability , HCL Technologies, points out, “To begin with, you must, as an individual, identify whether a particular sort of behavior felt out of sorts or strange to you. If you ever feel that a co-worker is invading your private space, you must at once ex press your displeasure openly . This sets the right tone and expectations at the needed time and prevents an unwelcome chain of events.“
Typically, it could range from something as subtle and verbal as making a casual remark on one’s looks with sexual innuendos to something as palpable and physical as grabbing or touching, explains Pavan Choudary , author and management strategist and MD of Vygon. He shares that usually when the friendship in the culprit’s mind starts acquiring sexual overtones, he starts giving signals. “For example, he may ask for greater privacy .The moment you begin gauging such signals, tread the alternate territory by asking him about his spouse or referring to your own spouse in conversations,“ he suggests. According to Rajita Singh, head, HR, Broadridge Financial Solutions adds, “Sexual harassment can take many forms: from sexually explicit remarks and banter, to harassment over the telephone and via email. There are studies, which have found that individuals have different perceptions of sexual harassment. For example, one may find over-friendliness, favours, verbal remarks all a part of daily banter, but at the same time, could be highly offensive to others,“ she explains.
An area of major concern when it comes to reporting of cases of sexual harassment is the fear of speaking up. Many a times, the cases go unreported as women do not know how to go about it or fear the consequences. Mona Cheriyan, chief operating officer & head human resources, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd and president of the WoMentoring Group of NHRD avers that an organisation needs to have a clear policy on sexual harassment and it needs to be communicated very clearly across all levels, offices and locations. There also needs to be an `Internal Complaints Committee’ set up in every organisation. “If the women does not get the appropriate response from the Internal Complaints Committee, then she has the right to go ahead and take it up legally,“ she explains.
“The investigation committee must ensure that a proper understanding of the genuineness of the case is reached at by all members.The organisation or committee must be non-judgmental and consider evidence from the accused, the victim and witness respectively with utmost regard. No case must be brushed off or termed a `false alarm’ as it has to be realised that sometimes the person concerned may not be able to produce tangible substantial evidence to prove their point. A good prosecutor must look at every angle and realise that every unique case has to be approached with a fresh frame of mind,“ avers Shivashankar.
Choudary asserts that while there are many instances of false cases, organisations should not dismiss a case to be `true’ or `false’ in the first instance. “A more fundamental requirement here is primary sensitisation of sexual harassment at workplaces. Employees need to be sufficiently sensitised on what is defined as and what falls under the realm of sexual encounter,“ he suggests. It doesn’t take much for one to understand when a gesture is crossing the line and leading towards harassment. It is hence, imperative to draw a line between friendliness and over-friendliness and nip it in T the bud.