We’ve seen the headlines for a few years now: Employee A has gone public about unresolved discrimination issues at Company X. Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen Amazon employees raising issues of discrimination, the launch of a sexual harassment investigation at ABC News, and Apple employees launching a website to collect reports of harassment.
Because more and more people are coming forward about ongoing issues in their company, others have now felt more empowered and more comfortable coming forward as well. This means that unresolved harassment, discrimination, and bias are prevalent throughout many more workplaces than many of us probably thought.
And there’s most likely unresolved issues of harassment, discrimination, bias, and other wrongdoings in your workplace, too.
In the recent survey on the “State of Workplace Harassment,” wthere were a number of insights into who’s contending with harassment, how many are reporting issues they see (and if not, why?), how workplaces are doing on resolving reported issues, and more. Here are the top insights that will hopefully give you more context as to how pervasive the issue of harassment is in the workplace, which will help you understand the current state of your workplace, too.
44% experience harassment at work
Harassment is pervasive, as our survey uncovered that 44% of workers have experienced harassment in their workplace. (Similarly, Pew Research also found that 44% of all workers, and 59% of women, have been the target of unwanted harassment at work.) This can include personal harassment and bullying, or harassment through discrimination, racism, or bias. It also includes online harassment and cyberbullying.
38% still experience harassment working remotely
One might think that harassment would decrease or even stop if employees were working remotely, because there’s a sense of proximity and presence needed for harassment to happen. But that’s not the case, as 38% of employees still experience harassment remotely. This is through channels such as email, video conferencing, chat apps, or by phone. 24% of employees also see harassment as being made worse through remote channels.
A New York Times article details that this is due to “the air of informality around workplace communication” that’s shifted to virtual, the fact that “knowing that no one’s watching can embolden foul play,” and the challenge of “pandemic-imposed stress” that’s made everyone much more quick to anger.
Only 53% say their workplace addresses harassment with a sense of urgency
When an internal employee issue like harassment hits public channels like social media, a natural response might be to ask, “Why didn’t they just take care of it internally?” The employee probably tried, and there was no resolution—and unfortunately not getting a resolution is fairly common. Only half of employees (53%) say that their workplace addresses harassment with a sense of urgency when reported. Of those who report, 12% never see any action taken on their report, and 15% say they weren’t aware of any action taken—maybe it was, but they were never alerted, or the system wasn’t transparent enough.
There’s not only the issue of taking action on reports of harassment, there’s the issue of resolving those reports. Organization may take action immediately, but are they seeing the report through to the end? Only 54% of those who have reported harassment say that their issue was fully resolved.
34% have left a workplace where there are unresolved harassment issues
Harassment can negatively impact someone’s daily workplace experience, from their morale to feeling safe both physically and psychologically to loss of trust in their organization if the issue goes unresolved. In fact, 34% of employees have left a job because of unresolved harassment issues—one third of the workforce. And replacing employees is not cheap. According to SHRM, the expense to replace an employee can cost upwards of nine months’ worth of that employee’s salary.
Only 50% have reported harassment
Of those who had experienced or witnessed harassment, 50% say they have reported their issue either to a manager, to HR, or to an ombudsperson or third party. However, 33% of those who had experienced harassment did not report it. There were a number of reasons why they didn’t report it, with the primary one being a fear of retaliation—which the EEOC says is “the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination.” They also didn’t report because they thought reporting wouldn’t do anything, or that they wouldn’t be believed.
85% are more likely to report harassment if given an anonymous channel
According to those surveyed, a way to increase reporting could be by offering anonymous channels through which to report. We found that 85% of workers are more likely to report harassment if given anonymous channels through which to do so. If employees are more willing to report through anonymous channels, why not adopt them? As the Harvard Business Review confirms, “Research has consistently demonstrated that offering anonymous reporting channels increases reporting rates by making it easier for people to report and protecting victims against retaliation.”
Only 72% believe their organization wants harassment reported
Providing anonymous channels, or any channel for feedback, won’t yield results if the organization itself frowns upon feedback—or their employees think they do. We found that only 72% of employees believe that their workplace wants them to report issues of harassment, which means that 28%—over one quarter of employees—work at an organization where they believe bringing up issues is frowned upon, which can impact morale, engagement, and psychological safety. Research by McKinsey finds that “a positive team climate—in which team members value one another’s contributions, care about one another’s well-being, and have input into how the team carries out its work—is the most important driver of a team’s psychological safety.” Yet that can be severely undercut if employees don’t feel like they can express their concerns.
The Time to Act is Now
If you’re already aware of ongoing harassment at your organization and working to combat it, hopefully these numbers will help in your efforts to strengthen your employee feedback channels. But if you’re convinced that harassment doesn’t happen in your organization, these numbers would tell you otherwise.
Claire Schmidt is the founder and CEO of AllVoices, an employee feedback management platform that enables anyone to anonymously report sexual harassment and workplace issues directly to company leadership. Before founding AllVoices, Claire served as Vice President of Technology and Innovation at 20th Century Fox. In 2010 she helped found and lead Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children.