Survey: One in Three Employees Has Left a Job Over Harassment

Author: Emily Scace, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 15, 2021

A recent survey on workplace harassment found that more than one-third of employees had left a job over unresolved harassment issues.

The survey, conducted by employee feedback management platform AllVoices, included 822 full-time employees in a variety of industries in the United States. The respondents represented a broad range of ages, employer sizes and seniority levels.

Overall, 44% of respondents had experienced some form of workplace harassment related to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class or other factors at their current employer. Some 48% had witnessed others experiencing harassment.

Harassment came from both managers and coworkers, with 38% having witnessed harassment from managers toward employees, 36% having witnessed harassment between coworkers, and 25% having observed both forms of harassment.

Although many respondents believed harassment had lessened or ceased with remote work, this assessment was not universal: 37% of respondents had experienced harassment while working remotely, with 24% indicating they believed instances of workplace harassment had continued or worsened with remote work.

Reporting Challenges

Half of respondents had reported workplace harassment they experienced or witnessed, with 33% indicating that they had not experienced or witnessed harassment to report and 18% indicating that they had experienced or witnessed harassment but had not reported it.

Common reasons for not reporting harassment included:

  • Fear of retaliation;
  • Doubt that reporting would accomplish anything or would be believed;
  • Uncertainty over whether the harassment rose to a level significant enough to merit reporting; and
  • Assumptions that someone else would report the harassment.

Female respondents were more likely to avoid reporting harassment out of a fear of retaliation, while male respondents were more likely to avoid reporting because they assumed someone else would do so or did not feel it was their role.

When employees did report harassment, managers were the most likely confidantes: 55% of those who had reported harassment did so to their own manager, while 36% reported harassment to the HR department. However, according to the survey, those who reported harassment to a manager were more likely to experience manager-to-employee harassment. These findings underscore the critical importance of training supervisors and managers to recognize and properly respond to employee concerns surrounding workplace harassment and avoid retaliating against employees who report issues.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (85%) indicated that they would be more likely to report harassment if they could do so completely anonymously. Other measures that some employees identified as likely to encourage more reporting included:

  • User-friendly reporting platforms (49%);
  • Encouragement from leadership (41%);
  • Increased awareness around what harassment is and how to recognize it (40%);
  • Normalizing the conversation around reporting harassment (36%);
  • Company commitment not to retaliate against employees for reporting harassment (34%); and
  • Bystander intervention training (27%).