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How to respond to sexual jokes in the workplace

More people than ever before are steadily becoming aware of the impact of sexual harassment in the workplace. In many cases, this harassment will not necessarily be violent. Many workplaces deal with employees who engage in lewd or sexual jokes, which are still enough to make coworkers uncomfortable. 

Even if the person does not target the sexually explicit joke directly at you, it can still make you feel awkward, which is completely understandable. One way to address any concerns is to confront the individual making the jokes. Perhaps the person was simply unaware of how the jokes made you feel and will stop. If this type of behavior continues, then it is worth it to bring it to the attention of the boss. If either of these steps fills you with anxiety, then here are some steps for making the process go more smoothly. 

Bring up concerns privately

The person who made the joke may become defensive if you call him or her out in public. While a public shaming may feel gratifying, it will most likely not promote the results you seek. Instead, talk to the coworker in private. The person may not have realized how the joke made everyone feel and appreciate your feedback. 

Hang onto all communication

In the event a coworker sends you sexually explicit text messages or emails, you will want to hold onto them. Evidence is particularly useful if you end up leaving the company and bring a lawsuit against the individual later down the road. 

Suggest a workshop

If there is a systemic problem of sexual jokes at your workplace, then bring up to your boss about hosting a sexual harassment seminar. A professional will come out to go over with everyone what constitutes harassment. Your employer should feel positively about this plan of action because it reduces his or her liability in case an incident goes to court. 


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