Harassment claims can be financially and legally hard on an organization, but what about the affect on the harassed party. Sexual Harassment can be debilitating to the victim. The effects on work performance and emotional well being can be catastrophic. Employers need to be cognizant of these effects and reach out to the victim to ease the process of recovery.
The stress on a sexual harassment victim cannot be understated. Job performance will surely be affected in the short term and if the harassment is not reported the employees performance can deteriorate to very low level. An employee who is harassed will miss work and avoid situations where the harassment may occur. In addition, worry and stress will take an employees mind away from his/her work.
This type of stress can also occur after a harassment claim has been reported. The fear of working with the harasser or of retaliation from the perpetrator can penetrate a victims thoughts and behaviors. It is of utmost importance that the two parties are separated and not required to work together. In addition, the perpetrator needs to be warned about the legal consequences of retaliation and the victim needs to know the companies policy on retaliation.
Most people have very strong views on sexual harassment and the victim may have to deal with the scorn of or loss of personal relationships with co-workers. The social sphere within a workplace may be divided amongst the victim and the perpetrator and it could lead to conflicts within the two camps. These behaviors need to be addressed immediately by management to minimize the affect on the workplace's productivity.
The effect of harassment can change the dynamic of a workplace for the victim, perpetrator and their co-workers forever. Steps need to be taken immediately to minimize these effects. The best way, however, is train on harassment from the beginning and let your workforce know there will be zero tolerance for harassment. Stopping harassment before it starts is always the best policy, however if it does happen a strong policy on retaliation and a sensitive approach to the emotional affect on the victim should be part of company policy.