I am considering quitting my job because of sexual harassment. What must I do?

Those entrusted with sensitive information such as workplace sexual harassment should treat such information with discretion and for the benefit of those in suffering. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

The first thing you must do is to drop the idea of leaving your job because of the bad behaviour of other people. It is they who should be removed from the workplace, not you. Stay put until they are either removed or made to change their ways. There is no place for them in the workplace in the 21st century.

Some years ago, we saw a young man who had attempted suicide in circumstances that sound like yours. He worked in the airline industry and was often out of his normal workstation on duty. He was happily married with two children and, as he was to tell us later, loved his wife, and regularly went to church.

The station manager at the city where he often went on duty was senior to him, much older than him and often drunk too much. She was feared by all the other staff because not only was she in charge of the station, but it was also her duty to ensure that all members of staff always behaved themselves. For this reason, she visited them at odd times “just in case”.

It was during one of these “routine” visits that the young man got the shock of his life.

The manager arrived at the hotel; said she had a parcel for the young man. Due to her influence in the hotel, she was soon in the young man’s room. Luckily, she was inebriated and after “making a fool of herself sexually in his room”, she fell off to sleep. She was apologetic the following morning and the young man thought it was a mistake and blamed himself for having allowed her to enter his room that night.

He was wrong and his forgiving her was interpreted as a sign of his secrete love for the older lady!

Every time he visited the city, the scene would be repeated, and the unwanted visitor kept coming and was soon declaring her love for him. Sadly, for the young man, his protests went unheard, and his desperation increased because he could not find a way of telling anybody of his ordeals.

His colleagues would only laugh at him for sleeping around with the old woman, while his family might mistakenly “understand” why he kept travelling to this city.

The poor man was stuck and got into the habit of heavy drinking as soon he got to the overseas workstation. He soon bought his peace by spending more and more drunken hours with the big lady boss who he hated.

Inevitably, his work started to suffer as he was becoming more and more nervous as his work schedule took him to this powerful woman. In desperation, he told his wife the story and she told her mother who soon told his mother and before he knew what had hit him the pastor was soon preaching a sermon, he was sure was about him.

When the pastor prayed for those men who sleep with their bosses, he decided that death was the only way out. He had, by this time lost his wife and children and was on the brink of losing his job for heavy drinking.

In hospital, and after the initial therapy sessions, he, in group therapy met others who had succumbed to sexual harassment at the workplace. The two girls who helped him the most had gone through worse instances of harassment, not only in the hands of the bosses but other male colleagues who took advantage of them whenever they travelled overseas on duty.

They had also taken to heavy drinking. He felt understood and comforted by the fact that he was not alone but more importantly that he had found soulmates with whom he could fight the injustice of sexual harassment at the workplace which soon found out affects both men and women.

Many months later they were able to bring together several similarly afflicted individuals and were able, through their trade union, to put in place a mechanism similar to whistleblowing in which culprits are now reported and investigated in confidence without fear or favour.

This group of men and women had fought for their right not only to remain in their jobs but in the case of the young man he had fought to remain alive. Their lesson was that no perpetrator of sexual harassment, male or female should be allowed to destroy the careers of others, and organisations must find ways that enable staff to report such instances.

Those entrusted with sensitive information such as workplace sexual harassment should treat such information with discretion and for the benefit of those in suffering. Indiscretion in this case could have led to the loss of a young life.

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