How to Prevent Workplace Sexual Harassment: 6 Actionable Tips

What is workplace sexual harassment?

The definition of sexual harassment is harassment that uses explicit or implicit sexual suggestions.

However, what does sexual harassment means?

What is the extent of sexual harassment?

Most times people will immediately think of the act of sexual harassment as a sexual assault or providing forceful sexual favors.

But there is more to sexual harassment than you think.

It doesn’t just include sexual assaults, but also other sexually suggestive actions.

Sometimes people don’t know what are those actions.

Here are some examples and ranges of sexual harassment:

  • Provocative or insulting remarks about one’s attire
  • Unwelcoming sexual jokes about one’s body
  • Unwanted flirting and verbal sexual advances
  • Sending pictures or any kind of media with sexual undertones without consent
  • Touching against consent especially in rarely touched parts or private parts

Sexual harassment can happen anywhere from public places, transportation, and even workplaces.

It can also happen to any gender, though the common stereotype is that sexual harassment only applies from a man to a woman.

The numbers of sexual harassment are increasingly worrying on women.

In fact, one survey reveals that more than half of women in workplaces have experienced sexual harassment at their workplaces.

Why is this important?

A recent spate of sexual harassment episodes in top companies brought the spotlight on this issue.

Zhou, a female employee working for Alibaba alleged that an Alibaba executive raped her but the company took no action.

What happened next created a massive uproar in the Chinese’s social sphere, with the accused Alibaba manager fired, two senior executives resigning and even CEO Daniel Zhang said the handling of the incident has been a “humiliation” to the company.

In another case, Dave McClure, previous partner and co-founder at 500 Startups, was accused of sexual misconduct by several women in the tech industry. He then apologised and resigned from his role at 500 Startups.

Resignation, loss of talent and reputation loss are some of the costs incurred for the organisation. That’s why it’s important to prevent and to deter episodes of workplace sexual harassment.

Although sexual harassment is illegal by law, it still happens all throughout ages, even till today.

When people—specifically women—are harassed at work, it creates a negative energy in the workplace that can lead to power harassment issues and employees’ discord.

This can lead to a decrease in the overall work productivity and output.

Moreover, people can feel as if the workplace is harming them.

This could lead to unwanted problems for the organization, like getting a case filed against it or a decrease of employees.

That’s why we should prevent workplace sexual harassment before it happens.

If you’re confused about what you should do, we’ve compiled a list of tips so you can take action immediately.

Read on below to find out.

1. Setting the policies straight

workplace sexual harassment - set policies

There’s one thing that can cause workplace sexual harassment.

That’s what the workplace doesn’t have most of the time: a clear rule that prioritizes sexual harassment to not take place in the first place.

We know that sexual harassment is illegal.

But when there is no policy or written rule that outright says “no”, people can get away with it quickly because the workplace “doesn’t forbid it.”

What you want to do is set clear policies dedicated to everything about sexual harassment.

Have the company’s manager put a written rule on a handbook or the company guide.

See this for an example of a policy guide on Sexual Harassment

The second thing about not having clear policies that forbid workplace sexual harassment is that people aren’t getting punished for it.

Well, there are no rules to bind them and punish them for it, right?

That’s why most of the time, the perpetrators can wash their hands and not suffer from any consequences.

This isn’t the thing we want to strive for in humanity and in our workplace.

So what you want to do is to place immediate consequences and punishment on the sexual harassment policies in your organization.

In fact, if it extends to sexual assault, you can hand the perpetrators to the police or fire them.

2. Conduct training sessions for employees

workplace sexual harassment - conduct training

People that conduct sexual harassment are unaware that what they’re doing is sexual harassment in the first place.

That’s why you need to raise their awareness when they’re working in your company.

Have the company conduct training sessions that teach employees about setting the boundaries.

This includes what to do and what not to do in a workplace.

When they know that their actions are categorized are sexual harassment, they’ll prevent doing that in the future. After all, they now know that it’s bad to do.  

These training sessions can coach them into behaving more positively too and decrease workplace discrimination.

For best practice, you can conduct the training sessions once per month.

3. Conduct training sessions for superiors

workplace sexual harassment - conduct training

Sometimes, sexual harassment perpetrators aren’t just the lower level employees.

Clients, managers, and higher-ups are more likely to be the perpetrators.

This is more likely to happen due to the inherent power imbalance.

One survey shows 44% of women employees in the restaurant industry experienced sexual harassment from their manager or owner.

When the superiors are the culprits, they can exert undue authority over the subordinates.

This can lead to sexual harassment or any kind of harassment in the workplace.

That’s why it is important to start from the top, to teach managers about the implications of sexual harassment.

Because they’re in different positions than the employees, they should have different training sessions tailored to them.

Teach them to set personal boundaries and not spend personal time alone with one specific employee.

You can also emphasize that if they were to do sexual harassment, they can also face the same consequences as normal employees.

This can close the distance that was created by the power imbalance and prevent sexual harassment from happening.

4. Make your workplace transparent

make workplace transparent

Sexual harassment in the workplace often becomes unreported and stays in the dark because employees aren’t brave enough to come out.

That’s one of the impacts of being a victim of sexual harassment.

In fact, statistics show that 63% of women didn’t file a complaint, and 79% of men kept it to themselves as sexual harassment victims.

Because sexual harassment victims do not report their cases, there are still many undisclosed sexual harassments that the company management won’t know till today.

What you can do to prevent any more sexual harassment from happening is by encouraging people to come out about it.

Also, make your workplace positive and comfortable enough for people to not be afraid to report anything that happens to them.

You can put up a secret box or a suggestion box for employees to say their opinions or report something without anyone knowing.

That way, they’ll be able to report any sexual harassment without feeling scared and embarrassed.

You can also include a clear procedure to report sexual harassment.

One example of the procedure is to include a form or a slip that the employees can fill out. This form is a formal procedure that every employee has to fill out if they want to report a case of sexual harassment.

When there’s a formal report, the perpetrators of the sexual harassment are more likely to be handled more seriously.

Set a anonymous whistleblowing channel for anyone in the company to lodge a report about sexual harassment.

For example, the Singapore Press Holdings company has stipulated a whistleblowing policy regarding sexual harassment in its corporate governance structure.

5. Monitor and supervise the workplace

monitor the workplace

Sexual harassment happens in places no one can see.

And most of the time you can’t see its signs too.

That’s why you need to have someone to monitor your workplace.

Hire or appoint a specialized supervisor who is responsible for monitoring the employees.

Have them keep an eye out for any potential sexual harassment that is happening during work or break time.

Sometimes, people secretly do inappropriate conduct.

But when they’re watched, they won’t try to do anything.

If needed, the supervisor is able to interview the employees that they suspect to be giving warning signs of sexual harassment.

6. Act swift before the issue escalates

act fast in the workplace

Although you’ve put up some prevention steps as mentioned above, sometimes the issues of sexual harassment will still happen in your organization.

Of course, that is because nothing is perfect and prevention steps don’t always work 100%.

So when you’ve done all the above steps and workplace sexual harassment still happens in your company, what can you do?

To combat any sexual harassment case from becoming more serious, you have to take measures immediately and act fast.

When you have heard a report, don’t ignore it.

Immediately investigate and call upon the alleged culprits and victims to give the appropriate treatment.

By ruling out the issues immediately, victims and employees will be able to feel safe in your organization.

This also hopefully serves as a warning for sexual harassment to not happen again.


And these are 6 actionable tips you can do to prevent workplace sexual harassment in your organization.

Remember that the human resource team is not the only one responsible for sexual harassment in the company.

Instead, everyone who is in the company should be responsible for it.

That’s why we all need to gather together and raise awareness for it to not happen. Don’t forget to always help, report, and support victims of sexual harassment.

We are all in this together in supporting victims of sexual harassment.

Furthermore, men or women both don’t deserve to receive sexual harassment in any place, especially not in their workplace where they spend most of their time.

They should be able to feel safe and comfortable while working.

If you manage to create a company free of workplace sexual harassment, you’ll be able to build trust among employees and managers. This will lead to higher productivity, a happier workforce and higher work output.

If you want to recruit excellent individuals for your company that are compatible with your policies and your positive workplace, you can try to head over to our career platform: 9cv9.

You might also want to read:

Effective Communication on Zoom: 4 How-to Tips

Review of Maternity Benefits and Leave in the Asia Pacific

Top 11 HRIS Apps or HR Software in 2021

Was this post helpful?

Jessy Ye
Jessy Ye
Jessy Ye is an aspiring content writer and a fresh graduate majoring in English Literature. With passion and ambition, she strives to excel in content writing. Join her in her journey of creating influencing, creative content.

Related Articles