Office culture includes a complicated web of relationships, especially in small or medium sized companies. In every team there are gender politics, power dynamics, social mores and structural hierarchies to consider, but small or medium sized companies often rely on in-network or referral based hiring, at least for a while, which adds another dynamic to consider.
This type of recruiting makes it common for there to be family clusters or social clusters of some kind (perhaps an over-representation of alumni from the same university, or church group) in small or medium sized companies. Some of the pros and cons may be obvious:
Pro: "Family dynamic" that feels safe and fun... at least to the people in the "in-group."
Con: "Family dynamic" that feels intimidating and maybe even discriminatory to the people not in the in-group.
Do you have a lot of fear on this subject? If you're looking for advice on how to avoid unintentional harassment, follow that link to read an article I've written entirely on that subject.
Why It Matters:One of the un-intended consequences for companies is that a "family culture" muddies the waters when it comes to sexual harassment. For example:
If You're NOT the Victim:Harassment is a violation of everyone's right to a safe and dignifying work environment, because if one person is made to be unsafe at work, it sets the precedent for anyone to be unsafe at work. So even if you're not the victim, you can still go to HR, the police, or the EEOC for guidance or to file a complaint.
To be clear, in order to file a claim with the EEOC as a peripheral victim, you'd need to be able to prove that a "reasonable person" would find the circumstances hostile and/or intimidating OR enduring the situation must have become a condition of your continued employment, not just the direct victim's.
In order to broach the subject effectively, you must do 3 things successfully: