Ostracizing targets of workplace sexual harassment before and after the #MeToo movement

Stephanie E.V. Brown (Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
Jericka S. Battle (Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Publication date: 26 February 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the connections between sexual harassment and ostracism both before and after the modern day #MeToo movement. It outlines how the birth of the #MeToo movement lessened the impact of ostracism, empowering victims to report their abusers.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper provides an overview of the ostracism literature, and discusses why ostracism has historically prevented individuals from disclosing workplace abuse. It also examines recent and historical cases of sexual harassment where ostracism has both inhibited targets of sexual harassment from reporting and harmed those who stood up for their right not to be harassed.

Findings

Both purposeful and non-purposeful ostracism have negative impacts on employees and organizations as a whole, and the fear of ostracism prevented many from disclosing harassment and abuse in the workplace. The #MeToo movement, by nature, is antithetical to ostracism by building community and freeing people to seek justice. This paper makes practical recommendations for organizations that wish to help prevent ostracism as a response to workplace sexual harassment disclosure.

Research limitations/implications

Both purposeful and non-purposeful ostracism have negative impacts on employees and organizations as a whole, and the fear of ostracism prevent many from disclosing harassment and abuse in the workplace. The #MeToo movement by nature is antithetical to ostracism, building community and freeing people to seek justice. This paper makes practical recommendations for organizations that wish to prevent ostracism as a response to workplace sexual harassment disclosure. Additionally, it provides future research directions to explore the empirical link between the disclosure of sexual harassment and ostracism.

Originality/value

This paper analyzes a crucial barrier to reporting sexual harassment. It both examines the consequences of ostracism and highlights how the threat of ostracism can be overcome through intentional organizational efforts.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Samantha January, Spencer Brown and Phia Salter for feedback on earlier versions of this paper. Similarly, the authors wish to thank the reviewers for their kind and constructive feedback on this manuscript.

Citation

Brown, S.E.V. and Battle, J.S. (2019), "Ostracizing targets of workplace sexual harassment before and after the #MeToo movement", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 53-67. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-09-2018-0162

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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