I received a great question, via LinkedIn, yesterday. A woman wanted to know how to deal with stress at work when it is the result of sexual harassment. First, sexual harassment is illegal. When you don’t report it, you fail to allow your company to take care of the issue. You take on the weight of the issue allow and it will likely continue. You should always report any type of harassment in the work place and give your employer the opportunity to address the issue on your behalf.

Uncomfortable and illegal situations are always going to cause an increase in stress. No therapist in the world can remove this from you or make it go away. But, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or that it is not real. Sexual harassment is unfortunately a common occurrence in the workplace. It can take on the form of verbal or physical conduct. When it occurs, it is difficult to experience, and it is important to learn the ways to effectively deal with it.

After you go through the proper steps to report the harassment, there are three different cycles of stress.

1. Retaliation stress. This is when you worry about making your life at work harder after reporting the issue. It is also when you’re caused stress because you might feel the company will terminate you for being proactive.

2. Survivor’s stress. This is when you feel guilty and overwhelmed for turning in the guilty party. Yes, they have a family. Yes, they have bills. Yes, they should’ve known better than to harass you at work and cause the situation. Depending on the degree of the harassment, this could last up to six months after the incident. It is normal to have these stressful and guilty feelings.

3. Uncomfortable stress. When is stress not uncomfortable? This type of stress is the stress that happens during social times at the job. Perhaps there is a potluck or birthday celebration. People start joking around and then become silent when you walk in. They don’t want you to take anything the wrong way and it becomes obvious, noticeable, and socially stressful. While there is no getting around office gossips and the assumptions as to what may have happened between yourself and another party, you can directly address this type of stress by clearing the air (if you’re legally allowed to talk about it) in-front of everyone.

I do offer FREE counseling consultations and I am willing to discuss stress-related issues. Please email me at maryanne.nicholls@gmail.com to setup an appointment or to further discuss this topic with me.


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