One morning, the Proprietor of a financial products marketing company called the Sales Coordinator to his room and asked her why she, usually a very cheerful person, had been very quiet during the last few Daily Sales Meetings.
When she gave him an evasive reply, he pointed out that if she was being weighed down by any personal or family matter, she was not obliged to discuss it with him. However, if she was facing any problem or pressure at work, it was her duty to inform him. He assured her that she need not have any fear about the repercussions of reporting any matter to him.
During the six months that she had worked with this company, the Sales Coordinator had realised that the Proprietor was a principled and trustworthy person. Yet, she was hesitant to speak. Sensing her hesitation, he asked her point blank, “Which member of the sales team is bothering you?” Taken aback, she blurted, “Sales Manager.”
To start with, the Proprietor asked her if the Sales Manager had subjected her to any form of physical or verbal sexual harassment. She replied in the negative. Then, he told her that since it might be embarrassing for her to speak about the matter, she should immediately give him a confidential memo describing the matter in detail.
The two-page memo described a series of incidents during the last few weeks in which the Sales Manager had subjected the Sales Coordinator to harassment. He had also told her that, if she complained against him, she would be in trouble because, in view of his experience and his excellent rapport with the company’s important customers, he was very important to the company while she was still in the 12 months’ probation period. Worst of all was the fact that, on a number of occasions, he had telephoned her late in the evening and spoken harshly to her on all occasions.
The latest mobile phone bills had been received the previous day. The call records in the Sales Manager’s phone bill revealed the dates, times and durations of 6 late evening calls to the Sales Coordinator during the previous 30 days.
The Proprietor asked the Sales Coordinator one last question: did she know why the Sales Manager was harassing her? She replied that, as far as she knew, the Sales Manager was under severe stress due to some family problems; she was a convenient outlet for his frustration because he was confident that she, a woman in a support function, could not hit back. She was quite sure that she had not done anything to incur his wrath.
The Proprietor told her that he would confront the Sales Manager about this matter that very evening. He would tell the Sales Manager that the Sales Coordinator had not complained on her own; she had informed him about this matter only after he
had demanded to be told the reason for her indifferent behaviour over the last few days.
The Proprietor confronted the Sales Manager about the matter that evening. He told him that such behaviour was not acceptable under any circumstances. Frequent late evening calls to a female employee by a male senior would be construed as sexual harassment unless proved otherwise; the Sales Manager could be in serious trouble if this matter went further. He was told that he should apologise unconditionally to the Sales Coordinator and should desist from such behaviour in future. Otherwise, suitable action would be taken against him.
The Sales Manager was stunned. He had never expected to hear the Proprietor speak like this to him. He immediately apologised to the Proprietor and assured him that this would not happen in future. The next morning, he apologised to the Sales Coordinator. The harassment stopped.
Workplace / sexual harassment in any organisation can be prevented, or reduced to a very substantial extent, only if the management is known to have ZERO tolerance towards such harassment, even when the perpetrator is a key employee.
Other posts on Humanism and Sexual Harassment:
If a girl is being sexually harassed …
Thwarting sexual harassers, Reducing sexual harassment
If a woman tells you she has been raped …
What happens after rape? What should happen?