Using Your Strengths to Overcome Sexual Harassment

hostile environment sexual harassment

Determine your top five character strengths and how to use them to overcome and cope with the effects of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual harassment can create an offensive work environment, leaving victims feeling fear, guilt or shame—but they are far from helpless in overcoming and coping with the effects of harassment. Get informed, determine your strengths and employ those strengths to promote positive change in your workplace.

Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal conduct, or physical conduct which affect or interfere with an individual’s work performance or create an offensive work environment for that individual.

When coping with sexual harassment in the workplace, it is important to consider your personal character strengths. What strengths can you utilize to overcome the harassment, revitalize your energy and determine if you need outside help?

The Universityof Pennsylvania’s VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a great resource to determine an individual’s character strengths. Give yourself 20 minutes and be honest. The test will provide you with the results of your top five character strengths and what they mean. For example, if your top strength is “Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness,” you think things through, examining decisions from all sides and relying only on solid evidence to make those decisions. Jumping to conclusions is not your thing.

A victim of sexual harassment with a strong judgment characteristic may use this strength to determine the root cause of the harassment and what she or he can do about it. If that person also exhibits the character strength of courage or diligence, he or she may choose to employ that strength to address the harassers head on, bring a complaint to Human Resources or contact an attorney for additional help. Refer to the chart below after getting the results from your Character Strengths test and determine how you can best use your strengths to overcome sexual harassment.

Character Strength


Using Strengths to Overcome Sexual Harassment

Capacity to Love and Be Loved You value close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated. The people to whom you feel most close are the same people who feel most close to you. Don’t keep embarrassment, shame and guilt you might feel from harassment to yourself; share your experience with those you love and trust, and respect their advice.
Curiosity and interest in the world You are curious about everything. You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating. You like exploration and discovery. Learn about the dynamics of sexual harassment. See, for example, our book on sexual harassment and our articles on sexual harassment.
Industry, diligence and perseverance You work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you “get it out the door” in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks. Use your perseverance to reach out of your comfort zone and take steps to overcome sexual harassment. Know that the road is tough, but that you will persevere.
Judgment, critical thinking and open-mindedness Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind. Seek advice and guidance, for example from articles on this site and our book, A Victim’s Guide to Sexual Harassment in California, and then rely on your own judgment to make the next right move.
Love of learning You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn. Knowledge is power. Investigate the roots of sexual harassment and the alternatives to combating it.
Fairness, equity and justice Treating all people fairly is one of your abiding principles. You do not let your personal feelings bias your decisions about other people. You give everyone a chance. Notice similarities in others. Do small acts of kindness, particularly if you see someone experiencing harassment. Promote justice in the workplace.
Appreciation of beauty and excellence You notice and appreciate beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience. Appreciate the beauty of a strong, fear-free work environment and work to create such an environment for yourself and your coworkers.
Kindness and generosity You are kind and generous to others, and you are never too busy to do a favor. You enjoy doing good deeds for others, even if you do not know them well. Be aware of other possible victims of sexual harassment in your workplace; offer them support and encourage them to speak up for themselves.
Gratitude You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks. Sexual harassment can be very debilitating. As an antidote, take time to savor the simple pleasures in life and sweet memories. Appreciate the positive events in the day and reflect on the gifts in your life.
Honesty, authenticity and genuineness You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a “real” person. Assess your strengths and rely on them to deal with sexual harassment. Create meaning beyond yourself in your efforts to combat sexual harassment.
Forgiveness and mercy You forgive those who have done you wrong. You always give people a second chance. Your guiding principle is mercy and not revenge. Realize that you did not cause the sexual harassment. Forgive, but do not forget. The sooner you address the sexual harassment, the sooner you can let go of it.
Leadership You excel at the tasks of leadership: encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen. Be on the lookout for sexual harassment in your workplace: is an individual or group being singled out? Try to make everyone feel included by addressing any problems right away.
Social intelligence You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease. Be aware of others around you: are you the only victim of sexual harassment? Determine who else could be affected and consider discussing a solution together.
Creativity, ingenuity, originality Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible. Change your perspective. Experience your emotions without reacting. Work with your thoughts and create optimism. You can overcome sexual harassment.
Hope, optimism and future-mindedness You expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control. Take control of your own future—don’t ignore the harassment. Take steps to stop sexual harassment and remain optimistic that you can find a solution.
Modesty and humility You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty. Instead of verbally attacking harassers for their abuse, show in your actions that you are stronger than their harassment, and can be a productive, respectful employee in spite of them.
Perspective (wisdom) Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself. Let coworkers know that they can turn to you for advice and help when sexual harassment occurs in the workplace. If you are a victim, trust your wisdom to make the right decision about how to address the harassment.
Bravery and valor You are a courageous person who does not shrink from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain. You speak up for what is right even if there is opposition. You act on your convictions. Address the harassers head on: tell them about the pain they are causing you or other victims in the workplace, and tell them that you will go to Human Resources if they do not stop.
Zest, enthusiasm and energy Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure. Transform this enthusiasm into motion for change—address harassment as a means of fostering a positive energy in your work environment.
Humor and playfulness You like to laugh and tease. Bringing smiles to other people is important to you. You try to see the light side of all situations. Be authentic to your true self with your humor and playfulness in the workplace. Harassment is not funny, but humor can be effective in changing another’s perspective on harassment.
Caution, prudence and discretion You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret. Outline what you are going to say and how you are going to say it before bringing a sexual harassment complaint so that you appear professional and honest.
Self-control and self-regulation You self-consciously regulate what you feel and what you do. You are a disciplined person. You are in control of your appetites and your emotions, not vice versa. Be a hero. Reflect on your history of achievement in the face of obstacles. Work with your thoughts to create optimism in the face of harassment.
Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you. Use your strengths and search for the greater meaning in everything you do, particularly in combating sexual harassment.
sexual harassment lawyers near me
How is “Supervisor” Defined under Sexual Harassment Laws?
hostile work environment sexual harassment
Proving Sexual Harassment in the Workplace