When confronted with sexual harassment, most people don’t stand up for themselves to the extent they believe they will, according to a new study, which shows that because people use false predictions as a benchmark, they often condemn others who are victims of sexual harassment.
For the study, “Double Victimization in the Workplace: Why Observers Condemn Passive Victims of Sexual Harassment,” Ann Tenbrunsel, a professor of business ethics at the University of Notre Dame and her colleagues conducted five experiments that explored observers’ condemnation of passive victims of sexual harassment.
In the first two studies, observers predicted they would be more confrontational than victims typically are, and this led to greater judgment of other passive victims, including unwillingness to work with them and to recommend them for a job, according to the research team.
The third study identified the failure to consider what may motivate victims to be passive.
The final two studies reduced condemnation of passive sexual harassment victims by highlighting their likely motivations at the time of the harassment and by having participants recall a past experience of their own when they did not act in the face of intimidation in the workplace, a situation related to — but distinct — from sexual harassment.
“If we can increase the accuracy of our predictions and realize we won’t stand up for ourselves as often as we would like to think, we will be less condemning of other victims,” Tenbrunsel said.
Researchers from the University of Utah and Brigham Young and Northwestern Universities also participated in the study.
The study is set to be published in Organization Science.
Source: University of Notre Dame