Sexual Harassment and Navigating Workplace Holiday Get-Togethers

Each week brings the announcement of another man or even multiple men who have taken advantage of their power and influence to sexually harass someone in the workplace.  While there have historically been times when this issue has been in the spotlight, many are hopeful that this will be a watershed moment for women’s claims to be taken seriously and men’s actions to have consequences.

From Hollywood to the boardroom and beyond, what’s happening is nothing new.  These stories about newsworthy men behaving badly represent everyday reality for some women in the workplace.  Clients share their struggles regularly during our coaching calls and, particularly during the holiday season, they share concerns about how to navigate the upcoming holiday work party.

The office party provides an extra layer of networking on the job – the key words are “on the job.”  Remember, you are at work, so be aware of your surroundings, watch what you say and how much you drink.  While sexual harassment is not the victim’s fault, you have the power to control circumstances that can keep you safe.  Unfortunately, the office holiday party can bring out the very worst of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviors.

Then there’s the after party, which is like playing golf with your boss and can be the most advantageous networking opportunity, as long as you stay smart and stay safe.  Please do not buy into the conference syndrome where you’re offsite, so you rationalize an isolated incident.  This is work, not Las Vegas.

Regardless of whether you’re at the office or elsewhere with co-workers, you cannot control what others do.  If you are the victim of sexual harassment, inappropriate advances or worse, you need to feel empowered to speak up right away.

I always recommend that you speak up and say something to the perpetrator first and keep ongoing documentation of what’s happened.  Say something to the individual a maximum of three times before taking the situation to your superior or the human resources department.  If you’re not satisfied with action taken at this point, it’s time for you to engage an attorney.

Whatever you do, do not be silent.  I understand there’s a fear-factor with speaking up and speaking out against someone, most likely someone who is higher on the corporate ladder, in the workplace.  There’s a reason for the fear – women have been demoted, fired and passed over for promotions based on what they do or don’t do in these very unseemly circumstances.

With everything that’s been in the news lately, I’m hopeful that women will continue to feel empowered by the #MeToo movement.  So, please, go to your office holiday party, enjoy yourself and network.  If something happens there or any other time, speak up, because having no voice is the greatest risk of all.

In speaking up, you are joining with other women who also refuse to continue to permit such behaviors.  Further, your voice helps forge a new path for the younger generation of women who will hopefully one day be able to collaborate and work in environments free of fear and harassment.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

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