“African American women are just supposed to keep quiet about this kind of thing; they are told that they should not speak publicly against a successful African American man, and that this is just not good for the community to have this kind of dirty laundry, if you will, aired publicly.” ~ Anucha Browne Sanders
While it is important to speak up when you are exposed to sexual or other forms of harassment, as with any decision that has career and personal implications, you should always consider the cost.
Many women and even men who come forward to blow the whistle or take a stand against inappropriate behavior worry about their futures and their families. These individuals worry about being blacklisted and being unable to find employment in the future. They lose relationships with colleagues with whom they have worked for years; after all, many of their colleagues want to protect their own careers and fear associating with a whistle blower or an employee who stands up against the organization to address inappropriate behavior or challenge the status quo.
Others who choose not to come forward may simply look for employment elsewhere rather than enduring the mental anguish of character assassination, an investigation, or a trial. They fear putting their personal and professional lives on display.
Coming forward or taking a stand is a difficult and painful decision and not to be taken lightly. Indeed, the implications of this decision often involve not only the employee’s present circumstances and potential future stress and embarrassment; they also can indicate the future direction of an organization and the way it treats employees.
Usually, when a company refuses to address inappropriate behavior and an employee leaves without formally addressing the cause for the complaint, current and future employees can expect the behavior to continue and to be subjected to a hostile work environment. Browne Sanders says it best: “Being silent never makes change.”