This post is the second in a three-part series on workplace harassment, including how widespread it is, what impact it has on employees and employers, why it’s under-reported, and what steps organizations can take to address it. If you’d like to discuss our survey findings, please send us an email.


In the last post, we explored survey results showing that a substantial share of workers experience harassment, and that even more witness it happening to others. Now, we look at harassment’s impact on workers and, indirectly, on their employers. To understand the impact, Ekdesk commissioned a national survey of U.S. workers at employers with >100 employees (a population of ~80M workers).

Question: Which of the following, if any, are true of your workplace experiences with harassment?

These results fall into three buckets of harm to both workers and their employers: turnover, reputation, and productivity:

1. Turnover

Two results that immediately pop out are that 9.7% of respondents report leaving a job due to being harassed and that 6.5% report leaving due to seeing others being harassed. Leaving a job to escape harassment or a toxic culture, as opposed to leaving for a better opportunity, can permanently damage a worker’s career trajectory. And for employers, the disruption and cost caused by preventable departures is especially harmful in an economy at under 4% unemployment.

2. Reputation

The results also show that harassment can weigh on an employer’s reputation. 8.0% of respondents said they warned potential applicants about their workplace culture, an unsurprising result given that current employees are often a major source of applicant referrals. More surprising are that 5.8% of respondents who reported warning potential clients or customers about workplace culture. These two results show that workplace harassment can not only harm an employer’s recruiting brand, but it can even affect business development.

3. Productivity

Harassment also weighs on employees’ ability or willingness to contribute to the organization. 8.2% of respondents reported doing worse at their jobs due to being harassed, while 7.3% avoided new opportunities at work as a result. As with turnover, seeing others being harassed also has an effect on bystanders: 5.3% of respondents reported doing worse at their jobs after seeing others being harassed, and 5.8% reported avoiding new opportunities for that reason.

As these results show, employers not only have moral and legal obligations to prevent workplace harassment, but they also have a business interest in doing so. The next post in this four-part series explores one of the biggest barriers to meeting this challenge: most harassment never gets reported and is thus hidden from management’s view.


Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco. Survata interviewed 413 online respondents between August 09, 2018 and August 30, 2018. Respondents were reached across the Survata publisher network, where they take a survey to unlock premium content, like articles and ebooks. Respondents received no cash compensation for their participation. More information on Survata’s methodology can be found at survata.com/methodology.

About Ekdesk: Ekdesk provides software and services for creating equitable workplace. Its products include Case Manager for documenting workplace issues, Sonar for detecting, deterring, and measuring workplace harassment, and Diamond for identifying untapped internal talent.

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