Unconscious Bias Game

Workplace sexual harassment linked to depression

As we’ve seen with the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns sexual harassment on the job is always difficult, but it turns out that for women, it’s impact depends on how they know their ‘sex pest’. Women harassed by colleagues were far more likely to suffer from clinical depression than those harassed by clients or customers. A Danish study of 7600 employees from 1041 organisations, and reported in the Times found women harassed by colleagues (supervisors, peers or subordinates) had significantly higher risk of clinical depression.

Interestingly, when looking at the short article online, the comments box suggested male readers didn’t think this was newsworthy at all – just poor reporting and a self-selecting sample. Objection seemed to question the causal nature of this correlation between harassment and depression. This begs the question, ‘Is it any safer to harass a woman who is already depressed?’ The logical extension of that is that if you can prove your ill treatment didn’t cause her depression, she was already depressed – you are blameless. Instead, this should be a stark reminder to employers harassment complaints are worth investigating – particularly if they are from inside the organisation. Mental health issues, bullying and sexual harassment issues can cost employers both reputationally and on their bottom line. I’ve heard clients say that when they’ve told bosses about sexual harassment before, they’ve been dismissively brushed off with ‘it’s all in your head’. Well turns out, that’s indeed where it ends up if not handled.