Q. I recently joined an accounting firm in Eldoret. While I was received warmly by my workmates, I now feel uncomfortable around male workmates who have been making sexual advances at me. I am offended and distracted. My predicament though is that I cannot report this to my supervisor, who has also been acting inappropriately towards me. How should I handle this situation? I need this job.
Your colleagues are taking advantage and must be stopped. They know you are from out of town, isolated from family and friends making you an easy target. They also know you treasure your job and are willing to safeguard it at whatever cost. What they do not know is that your values are most important and come first and will not condone any abuse whatsoever. The first thing you do is speak up – Say No. You are not interested. If you do not speak and discourage the unwanted behaviour, they will not stop. You will continue to be uncomfortable, lose interest in your work and lose your job.
The next step is to report this abuse. Your supervisor has a boss either based at your workstation or not. Reach out to them and lodge a complaint. Do this whether there is a policy guide on procedure of reporting such cases or not.
You may consider asking for a transfer to a different department or town. Think about confiding to a colleague who perhaps has been in the organisation longer. Ask them if they have experienced such incidents and how they have dealt with them. Such a conversation will give you some insights on your next action.
If the employer is silent about such abuses, start planning your exit. Employers need to safeguard their employees from sexual harassment and bullying, as this is detrimental to engagement. Employees will never be productive when serving two masters at work.
They should be provided with channels of reporting that are confidential but are less restrictive; from hotlines, outsourced counsellors to awareness sessions.
Lately we have seen big organisations exposed for being negligent over their employees’ welfare. The sad thing is while we know we have many guilty people in our organisations, employees continue to be silent, letting abusers go scot-free. What you do not know is how many people you would help by speaking up.