It's hard to believe the #MeToo movement (in its current incarnation) is less than a year old. Some changes from the movement against sexual and gender-based harassment have been monumental; others seem to have hardly made a dent. We're talking about the issue now, though — and researchers have all the more reason to study it.
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Pundits often debate what drives people in power to exploit it. Two psychologists from Ohio University have just released a study suggesting that men who harass women at work do so because... they're scared of looking incompetent. "The findings … suggest that men do not necessarily sexually harass women because they seek sexual gratification, but rather because their insecurity about being perceived as incompetent prompts them to want to undermine a woman's position in the social hierarchy," says co-author Kimberly Rios in a press release.
Or, as co-author Leah Halper sums it up: "Fearing that others will perceive you as incompetent is a better predictor of sexual harassment than your self-perceived incompetence."
Even our growing understanding of the scope of workplace sexual harassment is by definition underreported. Employers aren't exactly supporting women to the fullest extent either. In fact, if emotional damage caused at work also results in financial injury, you're likely to be compensated less for it than if you only experience emotional distress. But if you personally are constantly looking over your shoulder trying to prove you're top dog, consider working on that. Even if you'd never imagine yourself perpetrating harm, there are lots of ways to make people uncomfortable. Check yourself before you wreck yourself — and your colleagues.