Business of Men

Managing sexual harassment strategically


Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable. Let’s be absolutely clear on that. But let’s also be just as clear that it’s a reality businesswomen have to face on a daily basis.

It has always been hard for women to successfully manage this situation in a strategic manner ¾ that is, so their careers are not negatively affected. If you find yourself being sexually harassed, as difficult as it may, be you need to remain strategic for the best outcome. And that may mean not officially reporting the harassment. Yes, we said ‘not reporting it’.

If the harassment has just started or is of the milder kind ¾ innuendo, jokes, or inappropriate emails or text ¾ there are some instances when it will be better to try and deal with it yourself rather than reporting it to HR.

Certainly, if you do report it, HR procedures should protect you and ensure a proper investigation, but in reality you could find a black mark attached to your name.

If you decide to report the situation to HR you need to remember that they work for the company and not for you; so your best interests aren’t really their main priority.

Examine the power imbalance

In order to deal with sexual harassment you need to think about who it is that is harassing you and why. Are they a man in power, perhaps your boss? You need to be aware that if you don’t handle the situation strategically, he may very well develop a personal vendetta against you and your career.

When a woman reports sexual harassment, the image of the company is jeopardized. If she is reporting someone higher up in the business ladder, it damages the brand of the company; people begin to view it as corrupt and unstable.

So what do you do?

Be strategic, create alliances around the person harassing you, and if they are your boss, create an alliance with their own boss.

You also need to realize that sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply brush it off and walk away, make it clear that you aren’t happy with their behavior but don’t make a scene.

Don’t tell everybody about it, don’t cry, and don’t bring HR into the equation unless it is absolutely necessary.

You also need to prepare yourself for the gossip that could easily arise. It’s a small world and there’s a chance that soon enough everyone will know your business.

Common sexual harassment

Recent studies found that the most common incidents of sexual harassment (56%) that were reported were instances where sexual comments or jokes were made, causing the respondents to feel offended.

These kinds of incidents, while inappropriate, can be brushed off much easier than if you find yourself being sexually harassed physically.

Steps to stop it

Keeping a journal and document everything that happens. Should you feel you need to, record conversations as well.

Pull the offender aside and tell them to stop. Also tell them that you have a record of their behavior and if they continue, you will make an official complaint. Often this is enough to halt the behavior.

Don’t cry. The reality is if you get upset you are perceived as a woman who can’t handle others in a professional manner. By no means is this perception fair, but it is the reality.

Ultimately, when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, women need to be a lot more strategic in how they handle it.

Women need to be tough when they find themselves in these situations, and show that they aren’t to be harassed and that they can handle and avert the difficult situation skilfully.

What about when it is serious?

There is a stage where it beyond negotiation. If the situation becomes criminal assault, where you find yourself being groped or having someone attempting to rape you, this is the time to involve HR and the police. There is no room for negotiation if you have been assaulted, and you have the right to full protection.

However, by being strategic when the harassment starts, you may even prevent a serious occurrence happening.



About Amanda Rose

Founder and CEO of The Business Woman Media. Amanda Rose is also the only 'strategic connector', a brand strategist, keynote speaker and host of Amanda Rose TV. Connect with Amanda Rose on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or visit

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1 Comment



    October 21, 2014 at 7:43 am

    This article disgusts me: “Sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply brush it off and walk away.” Women should not have to work in a place that is threatening or uncomfortable. I am appalled that this article is published on this website.

    Also, please stop the victim blaming: “However, by being strategic when the harassment starts, you may even prevent a serious occurrence happening.”
    Rape is not “preventable” and you cannot blame a victim for being raped, especially when you say earlier in the article that the best thing to do when being harassed is nothing.

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