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Styles of Management and Communication

When work-based friendships lead to romance and off-the job sexual relationships managers and employers face a dilemma: Should they “monitor” these relationships order to protect the firm from potential legal complaints, thereby “meddling” employees’ private, of-the-job lives or do they ignore such relationships and the potential problems they present? One study found that the way a romance relationship is viewed affects the actions that may be taken (Pierce et al, 2000).

For instance, if a relationship is clearly consensual or if it involves supervisor-subordinate relationship, then the actions taken may be different. A study conducted by the DTI in 2005 was Britain’s first large ...

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...scale survey examining unfair treatment, perceived discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace (Grainger and Fitzner, 2006). The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 3,936 employees across Great Britain between November 2005 and January 2006.

The survey found that: 1. Few employees had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last two years: less than one in every hundred (0. 9 per cent). 2. Women had a higher incidence of sexual harassment (1. 1 per cent) than men (0. 7 per cent). Three-fifths (59 per cent) of British employees who stated that they had been sexually harassed were women. 3. Less than one fifth stated that the sexual harassment was still going on. 4. Employees with a disability, or long-term illness were five times more likely to have experienced sexual harassment than employees without a disability.

According to Sexual Harassment Law, 1976 – Williams v. Saxbe – Court recognized sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination when sexual advances by male supervisor towards female employee, if proven, would be deemed an artificial barrier to employment placed before one gender and not another. Much has been made of the advantages of the Internet and its positive effects on HR manage¬ment. However electronic informa¬tion technology is also creating new problems for HR managers as well because sexual harassment occurs in e-mails and Internet access systems.

Cyber sexual harassment is a growing concern, as evidenced by, a survey of HR professionals, which found 31% of them had dealt with situations involving sex¬ually harassing e-mails at work. This cyber sexual harassment occurs in a variety of forms. It may be an employee forwarding a joke with sexual content received from a friend outside the company. Or it may be an employee repeatedly asking another employee to meet for lunch or a date. Another more troublesome form is employees who access pornographic Web sites at work, and then share some contents with other employees.

Even some¬thing such as an employee who has a screen saver of his wife in a revealing outfit or an actress dressed in a bikini has led to com¬plaints by other employees. Many employers have devel¬oped policies addressing inappro¬priate use of e-mail and company computer systems. According to one study, 85% of employers had policies on electronic technology usage (Robinson, 2001). Many policies have ‘zero – ¬tolerance’ whereby disciplinary action occurs regardless of the proclaimed innocence of the employee. More serious situations have led to employee terminations, as evidenced by some examples.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Michi¬gan fired seven employees for sending pornographic e-mails. Dow Chemical disciplined more than 200 employees and fired 50 of them for having e-mailed porno¬graphic images and other inappro¬priate materials using the com¬pany information system. A well-publicized case occurred at the New York Times where 20 employees were fired for sending offensive and inappropriate e-mails – many of the individuals repeatedly doing so (Robinson, 2001). HR managers are handling cyber sexual harassment in a number of ways.

First, having a policy is important, but it is even more crucial to train all employees on sexual harassment and electronic usage policies. Additionally, many employers have placed scanners on their e-mail and Web sites that screen for inappropriate words and images. Offending employees receive the warnings and disciplinary actions associated with “flagged” items (Robinson, 2001). Conclusion To conclude, the problems faced by Human Resource Professionals while dealing with work place discrimination could be summarized as follows.

Any kind of bullying at work could result in, decrease in employee morale, lack of motivation, decrease in productivity, and increased employee turnover. All these factors finally contribute to Organizational conflicts (Felsenthal, 1995). The problem could be resolved by Human Resource by way of a collective agreement on the work culture. Based on the agreement, the management could put out policies that would apply to all staff and intimate the same to all the employees. Some elements and principles could be contained in such a policy.

It would apply to all staff (managerial, executive, manual and non-manual workers); the working position and personal situation of offenders are irrelevant, and so are the victim’s. Every employee would be required to respect the personality and dignity of every other worker. Every employee would have the right to respect for his/her own personality and dignity. It would cover sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. The Policy would set out the forms of conduct deemed to be infringements of contractual obligations and hence disciplinary matters (as well as potentially constituting grounds for civil or criminal action).

The victim may ask the management or trade union or the human resources department for assistance in approaching the Work Culture Commission; improving the quality of performance feedback, including informal develop mentor oriented feedback as well as corrective feedback. The Policy should ensure improving the availability of flexible working arrangements, and ensuring fair and reasonable treatment of staff. The Policy should communicate openly at all levels, fostering a more engaging work environment through involvement of staff in decision making processes that impact on their work.

It should also increase the management by way of setting targets/goals and ensuring effective reporting structures. A Policy or Code of Conduct should be written, in consultation with employees.

References

Baird, J E & Bradley, P H. 1979. Styles of Management and Communication: A Comparative Study of men and women, Communication Monographs, 46, pp. 101-110. Biernat, Monica, Manis, M & Nelson, T E. 1991. Stereotypes and standards of judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60 (4):495–502.

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