The purpose of this investigation was to examine bystanders’ reactions to observing sexual harassment. Undergraduate students (n = 107 and n = 122, respectively) in the Southwest U.S. participated in two experiments in which they read about cases of sexual harassment and responded with their preferred punishment for the offenses. Findings from both studies demonstrate the importance of (a) a proactive organizational culture, (b) handing down punishments for sexual harassment that match both the severity of the infraction and the culture of the workplace, and (c) remaining cognizant of the potential differences in the ways women and men respond to observing sexual harassment in the workplace.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowsky (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, vol. 2 (pp. 267–300). New York: Academic.
Barling, J., Dekker, I., Loughlin, C. A., Kelloway, E. K., Fullager, C., & Johnson, D. (1996). Prediction and replication of the organizational and personal consequences of workplace sexual harassment. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 11, 4–25.
Belsley, D. A., Kuh, E., & Welsch, R. E. (1980). Regression diagnostics: Identifying influential data and sources of collinearity. New York: Wiley.
Bergman, M. E., Langhout, R. D., Palmieri, P. A., Cortina, L. M., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2002). The (Un)reasonableness of reporting: Antecedents and consequences of reporting sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 230–242.
Bowes-Sperry, L., & O’Leary-Kelly, A. M. (2005). To act or not to act: The dilemma faced by sexual harassment observers. Academy of Management Review, 30, 288–306.
Chan, D. K. S., Lam, C. B., Chow, S. Y., & Cheung, S. F. (2008). Examining the job-related, psychological, and physical outcomes of workplace sexual harassment: A meta-analytic review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32, 362–376.
Chelladurai, P. (2006). Human resource management in sport and recreation (2nd ed.). Champaign: Human Kinetics.
Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah: Erlbaum.
Cunningham, G. B. (2009). The moderating effect of diversity strategy on the relationship between racial diversity and organizational performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36, 1445–1460.
Cunningham, G. B., & Benavides-Espinoza, C. (2008). A trend analysis of sexual harassment claims: 1992–2006. Psychological Reports, 103, 779–782.
Cunningham, G. B., Fink, J. S., & Kenix, L. J. (2008). Choosing an endorser for a women’s sporting event: The interaction of attractiveness and expertise. Sex Roles, 58, 371–378.
Doherty, A. J., & Chelladurai, P. (1999). Managing cultural diversity in sport organizations: A theoretical perspective. Journal of Sport Management, 13, 280–297.
Evan, W. M., & Simmons, R. G. (1969). Organizational effects of inequitable rewards: Two experiments in status inconsistency. Administratively Science Quarterly, 14, 224–237.
Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 58, 203–210.
Fink, J. S., & Pastore, D. L. (1999). Diversity in sport? Utilizing the business literature to devise a comprehensive framework of diversity initiatives. Quest, 51, 310–327.
Fink, J. S., Pastore, D. L., & Riemer, H. A. (2001). Do differences make a difference? Managing diversity in Division IA intercollegiate athletics. Journal of Sport Management, 15, 10–50.
Fitzgerald, L. F., Shullman, S. L., Bailey, N., Richards, M., Swecker, J., Gold, Y., et al. (1988). The incidence and dimensions of sexual harassment in academia and the workplace. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 32, 152–175.
Fitzgerald, L. F., Gelfand, M. J., & Drasgow, F. (1995). Measuring sexual harassment: Theoretical and psychometric advances. Basic and Applied Psychology, 17, 425–445.
Fitzgerald, L. F., Drasgow, F., Hulin, C. L., Gelfand, M. J., & Magley, V. J. (1997). Antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in organizations: A test of an integrated model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 578–589.
Fitzgerald, L. F., Magley, V. J., Drasgow, F., & Waldo, C. R. (1999). Measuring sexual harassment in the military: The sexual experiences questionnaire (SEQ-DoD). Military Psychology, 11, 243–263.
Frank, E. (1987). Organisational “culture”: Some implications for managers and trainers. JEIT, 11, 29–32.
Gilbert, J. A. (2005). Sexual harassment and demographic diversity: Implications for organizational punishment. Public Personnel Management, 34, 161–174.
Greenberg, J. (1993). Stealing in the name of justice: Informational and interpersonal moderators of theft reactions to underpayment equity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 54, 81–103.
Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Hair, J. F., Jr., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., Anderson, R. E., & Tatham, R. L. (2006). Multivariate data analysis (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Hitlan, R. T., Schneider, K. T., & Walsh, B. M. (2006). Upsetting behavior: Reactions to personal and bystander harassment experiences. Sex Roles, 55, 187–195.
Jawahar, I. M., & Mattsson, J. (2005). Sexism and beautyism effects in selection as a function of self-monitoring level of decision maker. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 563–573.
Kim, Y. K., & Smith, A. K. (2005). Crime and punishment: Examining customer’s responses to service organizations’ penalties. Journal of Service Research, 8, 162–180.
Knapp, D. E., Faley, R. H., Ekeberg, S. E., & Dubois, C. L. Z. (1997). Determinants of target responses to sexual harassment: A conceptual framework. Academy of Management Review, 22, 687–729.
Knoppers, A. (1992). Explaining male dominance and sex segregation in coaching: Three approaches. Quest, 44, 210–227.
Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151–173.
Miner-Rubino, K., & Cortina, L. M. (2004). Working in a context of hostility toward women: Implications for employees’ well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 9, 107–122.
Miner-Rubino, K., & Cortina, L. M. (2007). Beyond targets: Consequences of vicarious exposure to misogyny at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1254–1269.
Molm, L. D., Quist, T. M., & Wiseley, P. A. (1993). Reciprocal justice and strategies of exchange. Social Forces, 72, 19–44.
Ormord, J. E. (1999). Human learning (3rd ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Orszag, J. M., Orszag, P. R., & Whitmore, D. M. (2001). Learning and earning: Working in college. Retrived from http://www.brockport.edu/career01/upromise.htm.
Pierce, E., Rosen, B., & Hiller, T. (1997). Breaking the silence: Creating user-friendly sexual harassment policies. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 10, 4–11.
Pierce, C. A., Broberg, B. J., McClure, J. R., & Aguinis, H. (2004). Responding to sexual harassment complaints: Effects of a dissolved workplace romance on decision making standards. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 95, 66–82.
Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2007). Organizational behavior (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Sartore, M. L., & Cunningham, G. B. (2007). Ideological gender beliefs, identity control and self-limiting behavior within sport organizations. Quest, 59, 244–265.
Schneider, B. (1987). The people make the place. Personnel Psychology, 40, 437–453.
Sears, D. O. (1986). College sophomores in the laboratory: Influences of a narrow data base on psychology’s view of human nature. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 515–530.
Sharp, L. A., Moorman, A. M., & Claussen, C. L. (2007). Sport law: A managerial approach. Scottsdale: Holcomb-Hathaway.
Sinha, A. K., & Kumar, P. (2001). Antecedents of crime and suggested punishment. The Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 458–488.
Stark, S., Chernshenko, O. S., Lancaster, A. R., Drasgow, F., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2002). Toward standardized measurement of sexual harassment: Shortening the SEQ-DoD using item response theory. Military Psychology, 14, 49–72.
Street, A. E., Gradus, J. L., Stafford, J., & Kelly, K. (2007). Gender differences in experiences of sexual harassment: Data from a male-dominated environment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75, 464–474.
Till, B. D., & Busler, M. (2000). The match-up hypothesis: Physical attractiveness, expertise, and the role of fit on brand attitude, purchase intent, and brand beliefs. Journal of Advertising, 29, 1–14.
Timmerman, G., & Bajema, C. (2000). The impact of organizational culture on perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 57, 188–205.
Waldo, C. R., Berdahl, J. L., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1998). Are men sexually harassed? If so, by whom? Law and Human Behavior, 22, 59–79.
Willness, C. R., Steel, P., & Lee, K. (2007). A meta-analysis of the antecedents and consequences of workplace sexual harassment. Personnel Psychology, 60, 127–162.
About this article
Cite this article
Benavides-Espinoza, C., Cunningham, G.B. Bystanders’ Reactions to Sexual Harassment. Sex Roles 63, 201–213 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9781-7
- Diversity culture
- Organizational justice