The latest CBS job satisfaction survey from 2021 showed that 95 staff members out of 1,211 participants had experienced harassment of different kinds. Of these, eight were incidents of unwanted sexual attention reported by employees across scientific and administrative personnel.
Although that is a very small percentage (0.6 percent) of the total amount of employees at CBS, one person experiencing an unwanted hand on a thigh, sexualising comments about their appearance or other kinds of harassment is one too many, according to the CBS Senior Management.
Together with HR, they have published a new set of guidelines to create awareness of sexually inappropriate behavior and to help employees know what to do if they experience their rights being violated.
“There are not many cases of sexual harassment at CBS, but it does not diminish the importance of creating awareness and protocols for dealing with these issues as an organisation. To put it briefly, CBS wants to prevent harassment,” says Susanne Hertz, a Chief HR Consultant at CBS. She adds:
“The new guidelines are a part of CBS’ efforts to meet the demands of what constitutes a healthy psychological working environment. Also, they underline that our CBS Senior Management and union representatives highly prioritise our employees’ wellbeing.”
One of the new guidelines advocates speaking up when an inappropriate situation is happening or immediately after an incident where you have felt your boundaries were overstepped.
The guidelines also recommend talking about your experiences with co-workers and contacting your manager if you have any concerns or complaints about sexual behavior from others.
Additionally, you can report incidents anonymously through CBS’ whistleblower scheme.
Why speaking up about sexual harassment is so hard
It might look easy on paper, but the reality of speaking up about being violated is much harder, Susanne Hertz explains.
“We know from research that people who speak up about inappropriate behavior are often perceived negatively as individuals who ‘overreact’ and they can end up being viewed as the problem instead of victims of a violation. This can re-traumatise the victim, which is a serious issue,” she says.
This can also be reflected in the form of victim blaming which includes the offended person being asked why they dressed in a certain way or failed to say no or fight back. All such statements place responsibility with the victim instead of the offender.
It is really important that employees speak up about their experiences of sexual inappropriate behavior to their managerSusanne Hertz, Chief consulant, HR
Another reason why discussing sexual offenses can be exceptionally difficult is that people do not wish to be victimised, Susanne Hertz elaborates.
“Others abstain from speaking about transgressional behaviour because they don’t believe their assaults are ‘severe enough’ or think that the consequences for the offender might be ‘too harsh’. Lastly, some people don’t talk about their experiences because of the power relationship between themselves and the violator,” she points out.
Why you need to talk about harassment
In spite of all the aspects that make it hard for people to talk about experiences of harassment, it is crucial to do it anyway, Susanne Hertz urges.
“It is really important that employees speak up about their experiences of sexual inappropriate behavior to their manager. This is the only way that these harmful situations can be stopped. It is crucial to reveal your own experiences of violation and the same goes if you have witnessed someone else being exposed to transgressional behavior,” she says and adds:
“If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your immediate manager, you can always talk to hers or his leader or to HR.”
The new guidelines include advice for managers on how to deal with employees approaching them with knowledge of sexual harassment. For instance, the guidelines state that:
“All leaders must take these inquiries seriously and must address them as soon as possible.”
The managers also receive counselling from HR on how best to navigate these difficult and sensitive issues, Susanne Hertz explains:
“We want to equip local managers to deal with cases of sexual harassment and prevent them in the best possible manner. The same goes for union and health and safety representatives. Our goal is to create a safe and inclusive environment for everyone at CBS,” she concludes.