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Sexual harassment and superstar employees

Experts say that sexual harassment has to be discouraged at an organizational level to make that discouragement effective. If a company wants to stop sexual harassment, those in charge need to assess the culture they've created and then take action.

In other words, management has to step up to the plate and fire the harassers if they want the message to get through that sexual harassment isn't acceptable at any level within the company, whether it's coming from the janitor or a top-rated employee.

Unfortunately, some companies or organizations have top-rated employees, or "superstars," who seem to enjoy a special privilege that allows them to get away with acts of sexual harassment. This encourages others to try some of the same behavior -- and it discourages victims from reporting the behavior. Many victims believe that superstar employees get special privileges that allow them to act the way that they do.

The victims might be right in their assessment of the situation. A company or organization often has economic reasons for turning a blind eye to the behavior of a superstar employee. For example, managers may hesitate to fire a top-rated surgeon, salesman or investment broker who has a solid reputation among his or her patients, customers or clients. There's always a chance that many of those people will follow the fired employee to his or her next place of employment. If that source of revenue is gone, managers worry that the company can't survive.

That's a fallacy that companies and organizations would do well to understand. A study by the Harvard Business School found that the economic losses caused by a toxic superstar employee who engages in things like sexual harassment completely exceed whatever economic gains he or she brings. Other employees end up not producing as much as they can when they're dealing with a coworker whose superstar status allows them to act without consequences.

Firing the toxic superstar is better for the company or organization than many realize. Once other employees aren't afraid of being harassed and don't have to deal with the distractions caused by the harasser, their productivity increases, and their combined efforts can be twice as valuable as the contributions of the former superstar.

Is a superstar employee making your life miserable through acts of sexual harassment? If management doesn't address the issue, it's wise to ask an attorney for advice..

Source: EEOC.gov, "Facts About Sexual Harassment," accessed May 09, 2017

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