Harassed by women colleagues at workplace, Saudi men feel trapped
In cases of harassment, men - who most often do not have a clear definition of the term - are less likely than women to speak up for fear of being mocked by coworkers
Harassment at the workplace is usually associated with men verbally or physically intimidating female coworkers. Companies take measures to prevent harassment of women through separation or stiff punishment.
The picture changes when women harass men. Many people find this strange; they believe that sexual harassment is limited toward female employees.
Most cases of harassment against men go unreported, as men tend to enjoy it or do not feel comfortable informing the management about it. If they report it, company managers try to resolve the issue in-house. Men are also less likely than women to speak up about such cases for fear of being mocked by coworkers. Therefore, it is difficult for men to decide what steps to take if harassment happens.
Sexual harassment at the workplace is a serious issue that many companies deal with strictly. There are no statistics about the number of harassment cases filed against females, but many people interviewed believe it exists.
Hani Yousuf, a Saudi employee at an advertising agency, faced harassment from his female coworker.
“My Saudi female coworker followed me around the office. Sometimes, she came to my office and got really close to me, which made me feel uncomfortable. During break time, I avoided staying at the office and went out to smoke, just to be away from her,” he said.
Yousuf repeatedly warned his coworker that such behavior was damaging both his and her reputation, but she did not care. He was too shy to report the matter to his boss.
When he told a friend at work about it, he answered that Yousuf should be happy. Three months ago, the woman was transferred to a new and better job, which was a relief for Yousuf.
“Why would I report the woman that harasses me at the workplace? People would find it funny, I guess,” said a Saudi flight attendant, who refused to mention his name.
“She smiles more at me than at the passengers. I see the way she interacts with other male coworkers; around me, she is extremely friendly. It became so obvious that people around me started to talk about it. They think I am happy and enjoying it, but I am not,” he added.
He tried to get rid of her by saying that he got engaged. He even wore a wedding ring, but it did not work.
Ahmed Badr, an Egyptian employee at a private company in Jeddah, faced harassment from one of his female coworkers. He did not report the case, because he feared that his colleagues would make fun of him.
“Although I do not have a clear definition of the term and what falls under harassment or normal behavior, I believe that I am being harassed. I receive phone calls from her all the time after work hours. At the workplace, she loves to sit next to me and talk about anything for hours. She even started to talk to her female coworkers about a possible chemistry between us,” said Badr.
When Badr got engaged, he finally confronted her and threatened with legal action against her if she did not stop.
Commenting on the issue, Saudi lawyer Adel Al-Sagga said that harassment problems at the workplace were best resolved at management level. Such cases were considered scandalous if they reached police and would damage people’s reputation.