Study: Organizational Climate Best Predicts Occurrence of Sexual Harassment


Posted by: Chris

The #MeToo movement sparked a national conversation on sexual harassment in the workplace. There’s no doubt that this powerful movement has changed the way sexual harassment victims are perceived and treated, but it has not led to the end of sexual harassment in the workplace. Fortunately, the end may be near since researchers may have discovered the key to preventing this unlawful behavior in the workplace. 

Organizational Climate & Sexual Harassment

Researchers at Harvard University conducted a study to determine if the way that a company’s leadership communicates about sexual harassment could shape others’ attitudes and beliefs. The participants of this study were asked to read a statement that was issued by a fictional company. The statement was the company’s response to the results of a sexual harassment survey taken within the organization. Half of the participants were given a statement that included quotes from the fictional company’s CEO downplaying the severity of sexual harassment. The others were given a statement with quotes from the CEO that emphasized the severity of sexual harassment. After reading the statement, participants were asked to determine whether or not sexual harassment was a high-priority problem in the workplace. 

The participants that read the “downplay” statement were far less likely to rate sexual harassment as a serious problem, whereas those who read the “emphasize” statement considered sexual harassment a high-priority issue. These results were consistent regardless of the participant’s gender or political beliefs. These results show that the way a leader communicates can have a powerful impact on others’ attitudes and beliefs.

How Leaders Can Change the Organizational Climate

This research suggests that leaders need to make an effort to communicate that they will not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace. Leaders also need to make it clear that there are consequences for this behavior that will be enforced. This will send a message to employees that sexual harassment is taken seriously within the organization. Based on this study, this type of communication may even force employees to take this issue seriously as well. 

If leaders lead by example, they can create an organizational culture where sexual harassment does not occur.

Have you been sexually harassed in the workplace? If so, seek legal representation from the experienced attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. as soon as possible. Let us fight to protect your rights and hold your employer accountable. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.