Lifestyle

Virtual sexual harrassment at work: “Luv how sexy u look 2day :-*”

That's not an SMS from your husband but from your male colleague. Here's how to deal with these inappropriate texts.
 

Does your male colleague send you unsolicited messages with emoticons like >;-> (I just made a lewd remark) or :-)---\< (I’m aroused)? Even if it isn't said face-to-face, lewd and unwelcomed online messages are still inexcusable. Whether these are sent through email, text messaging or Facebook, such virtual sexual harassment are disturbing yet also difficult to fend against.

You don't have to suffer in silence; do seek further assistance from your supervisor and HR department if the situation does not improve. Learn how to deal with such unwanted attention with expert tips by Anthony Peck from HR Singapore.

1. YOU RECEIVE A RACY SMS FROM YOUR MALE COLLEAGUE
Text messages constitute a new form of sexual harassment in the workplace. If you receive an obscene or sexually suggestive one, simply inform the sender that you do not wish to get such SMSes again. If that doesn’t work, report him to your supervisor or HR department, advises Anthony. Remember to keep the offensive text messages as evidence.

2. YOU RECEIVE CRUDE EMAILS OR JOKES THROUGH YOUR OFFICE EMAIL ACCOUNT
E-mail the sender, indicating that you don’t wish to receive such messages anymore. Usually, this helps solve the problem. If it doesn’t, bring up the matter to your supervisor or HR department.

3. YOU’RE INSTANT MESSAGING A MALE COLLEAGUE AND HE CHATS WITH YOU SUGGESTIVELY OR HE’S USING LEWD CHAT ICONS
If your company has a clear policy on the use of instant messaging (for example, messages should not contain language that is obscene, harassing or discriminatory in any way), remind your colleague that he should observe it.

However, if your company does not have such a policy, you can also remind your colleague that the chat content can be retrieved and he should be mindful of his words and icons. You should also tell him that you do not welcome such behaviour.

4. YOU SPOT SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES ON YOUR COLLEAGUE’S COMPUTER SCREEN
Remind him that such pictures are “not safe for work” and therefore, not appropriate to display openly as a computer desktop image or screen saver.

5. A COLLEAGUE SENDS YOU A LINK TO A PORN SITE
This is serious especially since it’s illegal, says Anthony, so report it to your supervisor or HR department immediately. Let the sender explain why he sent you the offensive link – he may have done it deliberately, another colleague may have sabotaged him, or it may have been due to virus software. Whatever the case, it’s important for your supervisor or HR manager to get to the bottom of the matter.

6. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF

  • You report the incident and your HR manager says you’re over-reacting or just conservative. Politely ask him/her whether the company has a set of rules on sexual harassment. If there aren’t any, suggest then it’s time he/she come up with some guidelines or policies on it.
  • The perpetrator tells you it was an accident and that it won’t happen again. If he has apologised for his misdeed, you can ask your HR department to document the incident in writing and ensure that it will not happen again.
  • The perpetrator is your boss. Naturally, you’d worry that your job would be affected if you lodged a complaint against him. It’s a tough decision, so consider your options. Do remember though, that, from an HR point of view, all the situations described above are not acceptable. Anthony says, in many Asian countries, most female employees will ask for a transfer to another department or resign from their jobs.

Anthony Peck is the general manager of HR Singapore, a professional provider in human resources training and consultancy. The consultancy is located at 89 Short Street #04-16, Golden Wall Centre, (S) 188216; Tel: 6337 8016 or visit their website for more information.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer March 2011.

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