Mysteries, Battles, and Games: Exploring Agency in Metaphors About Sexual Harassment

Shawna Malvini Redden, Jennifer A. Scarduzio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given the personal nature of sexual harassment and the typically confidential, bureaucratic reporting processes in organizations, first-person stories about sexual harassment reporting are somewhat rare. In fact, targets of harassment are routinely silenced by the reporting process, with confidentiality rules protecting harassers, organizations, and only occasionally, harassment targets. Consequently, we know little about how those who experience sexual harassment from coworkers make sense of their experiences, what their experience reporting is like, and how they navigate the stigma of sexual harassment after they report. In this study, we draw upon in-depth interviews with a diverse group of workers to understand how they metaphorically frame their experiences as mysteries, battles, and games. We argue that these metaphors direct attention to the ways people make sense of harassment in wholly negative symbolic frames, with diminished agency, and implicate organizations as agents in the harassment process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-146
Number of pages30
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • agency
  • framing
  • metaphor(s)
  • reporting
  • sexual harassment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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