Bauer Research Examines Unintended Consequences of #MeToo Movement

Published on August 13, 2018

For nearly a year now, a steady stream of #MeToo headlines has captured the world’s attention.

Hollywood media moguls and well-known, powerful people in law, politics and business have all taken turns in the sexual harassment spotlight.

Bauer College Management Professor Leanne Atwater and colleagues have taken the conversation a step further, constructing two surveys that ask men and women how they believe things will change at work in the wake of the cultural watershed that is #MeToo.

Among the primary findings in the working paper: Men and women tend to agree about the nature of sexual harassment complaints (i.e., women aren’t overly sensitive, and men are not oblivious to it); and both genders expect backlash from the #MeToo movement will negatively impact them in the workplace.

“We don’t always think of unintended consequences,” Atwater says. “Men and women both believe there will be some positive outcomes of #MeToo, but also some backlash such as excluding women or being more reluctant to hire them.”

Savvy managers know that “sexual harassment training is not the be-all, end-all that we would like it to be,” she adds.

“One of the things that companies are starting to do is to look at incivility in any form, with sexual harassment considered a type of incivility that isn’t tolerated. The message needs to be that it’s your obligation as a victim or observer to report it.”

Going forward, Atwater says, “Organizations need to be very mindful of the potential for possible backlash and mindful to not let it occur. And they need to take these claims seriously and make sure to do anything they can to eliminate negative repercussions so that women and men continue to come forward.”

Atwater’s co-authors on the study are Allison Tringale, Loras College; Rachel Sturm, Wright State University; Scott Taylor, Babson College; and Phillip Braddy, Center for Creative Leadership. Tringale and Sturm are University of Houston doctoral program graduates.