Sexual harassment over the telephone: Occupational risk at call centers

Sczesny, Sabine; Stahlberg, Dagmar (2000). Sexual harassment over the telephone: Occupational risk at call centers. Work & Stress, 14(2), pp. 121-136. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/026783700750051649

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The phenomenon of sexually harassing telephone calls in the workplace has been studied only marginally. In the present study 106 employees working in call centres in Germany answered a questionnaire regarding their experiences of sexual harassment over the telephone. The following data are presented: description of the phenomenon, i.e. prevalence and characteristics, stress reactions of the victims, behavioural reactions and coping strategies, consequences and anticipated consequences; prediction of the stress reactions by characteristics of the situation; and employees' recommendations for coping with sexually harassing calls. It was found that the female employees were more often sexually harassed over the telephone at work than their male colleagues. Three out of four female employees had experienced sexually harassing telephone calls; in the majority of cases the harassers were men. Characteristic patterns of harassment included groaning, sexual insults, silence, and threats of sexual violence. Some 16% of the harassed female employees described these experiences as extremely stressful. If the harassment contained threats of sexual violence and groaning, the perceived physical response was stronger. Being subjected to sexual harassment over the telephone both at home and at work was a more severe stress than having the experience only in the workplace. In conclusion, employees' recommendations for coping with the occurrence of sexually harassing calls are described.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Sczesny, Sabine


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Taylor & Francis




Sabine Sczesny

Date Deposited:

09 Feb 2016 14:54

Last Modified:

11 Sep 2017 19:14

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Stress, Coping, Sexual Harassment, Telephone Call Centres




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