Identifying the Roots of Sexual Harassment

Topic: Organizational Justice,Sexual HarassmentWorkplace Deviance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Organization justice and men’s likelihood to sexually harass: The moderating role of sexism and personality.
Author: F. Krings, S. Facchin
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

Researchers Krings and Facchin (2009) set out to uncover the reasons why men engage in sexual harassment at work. The authors hypothesized that certain personality traits make some men more likely to engage in sexual harassment, but that sexual harassment might also depend on certain organizational factors.

Krings and Facchin found that men reported being more likely to engage in sexual harassment when they perceived low interactional justice (feel that they are not treated fairly by their supervisors). Overall, this finding suggests that sexual harassment is more likely following unfair interpersonal treatment.

However, as expected by the authors, individual personality factors also played an important role in the sexual harassment process. Specifically, perceptions of low interactional justice were more strongly related to sexual harassment when men were low in agreeableness (not very oriented toward interpersonal relationships) and high in hostile sexism (general antipathy toward women).

Important note: To measure sexual harassment, Krings and Facchin utilized the Likelihood of Sexual Harassment (LSH) scale, which specifically measures the likelihood of engaging in certain behaviors, not the actual occurrence of sexual harassment.

So what can we take from this research?

Although organizations often have minimal control over the personality factors of its employees (unless the organization specifically selects employees based on the personality factors of interest), organizations CAN more readily affect their employees’ perceptions of interactional justice.  Generally, when employees feel that they are treated unfairly, they are more likely to subsequently “get back” (engage in deviant behaviors, including sexual harassment) at the organization or organizational members to “even the score.”  By placing a heavy focus on fairness, organizations can nip deviant behaviors such as sexual harassment in the bud.

Krings, F. & Facchin, S. (2009). Organization justice and men’s likelihood to sexually harass:  The moderating role of sexism and personality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(2), 501-510.