Is your company culture more vulnerable to harassment? 12 warning signs

Of course you know full well: Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace. But it turns out it happens in some workplaces more than others. Is yours one of them? Here’s how to tell.

The task force from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted a study on harassment at work. And it identified a host of risk factors that make harassment more likely.

Signs your company is at heightened risk for harassment

Your own company may be more at risk if your workplace is:

  1. Homogenous. When almost everyone in an office has similar backgrounds, it’s all the easier for those who don’t “fit in” to be targets.
  2. Has employees who don’t conform to workplace norms. Again, those folks tend to get excluded or become vulnerable.
  3. Contains cultural or language differences. That’s often a route in for people to start picking on another.
  4. Have “coarse” social discourse outside of work. That’s how lines get blurred and inappropriate behaviors creep in.
  5. Are comprised of many young workers. That’s not to say older employees don’t harass, but it’s a trend the EEOC spotted.
  6. Have folks who don’t think the rules apply to them. That’s a dangerous mindset to have. Often these are “high value” employees who tend to feel untouchable.
  7. Contain significant power disparities. When the divide between the top of the org chart and the bottom is vast, that dynamic opens the door to trouble.
  8.  Relies on customer service or customer satisfaction.
  9.  Has monotonous work or a large proportion of low-intensity tasks. Too much free time can get people focusing their attention where they shouldn’t.
  10.  Isolated in their workspaces. Similar to monotonous work, when people are isolated physically from their co-workers, they can focus their intention in improper ways.
  11. Tolerates or even encouraged alcohol consumption. Obviously when inhibitions go down. Inappropriate behavior goes up.
  12. Decentralized. Fewer checks and balances mean bad behavior is more likely to start and less likely to be reported.

So what do you do if your company has several of these risk factors? As a woman leader in your organization you want your radar up even further, especially when it comes to any specific employees who fit the bill above.

You may also want to take another look at the training your company currently offers both supervisors and employees to make sure it’s up to date in today’s post-#MeToo world.