Organizational Behavior and Culture
I. The Situation:
In preparation for an expedition to Mars, a joint international studies program, Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP), set up a replica in Moscow where three international researchers were joined with four Russian cosmonauts. The three researches were from Japan, Canada, and Austria. None of the participants spoke English as their first language, however they each communicated in English at varying levels of proficiency during their stay. The replica was no larger than the size of a train car. As part of the study, the researchers were asked to join the Russian cosmonauts for 110 days, after the four Russians had already completed almost half of their 240 days in isolation.
Only one female, Judith Lapierre, was invited to participate in the experiment. She had a PhD in public health and social medicine, and had previously conducted isolation research in Antarctica. It should also be mentioned that this would be her fourth trip to Russia enabling her to learn the language. Lapierre claims that the Japanese and Austrian participants viewed her as something favorable. Lapierre created a comfortable environment by rearranging furniture, hanging posters and putting down a tablecloth on the kitchen table. Lapierre explained that the Russians only viewed their environment as something to be endured.
It was during a New Year’s Eve party, when an event ensued that created tension between the participants in the study. After drinking vodka, two of the Russian cosmonauts engaged in a fistfight and had to be restrained by the other men. The two involved generally did not cope well with each other even before the incident. Soon after, the Russian commander grabbed Lapierre and dragged her out of view of the cameras, where he proceeded to kiss her aggressively. Lapierre fought him off, however, her message was not received and he tried to kiss her again in the morning.
Though complaints were raised, the IBMP took no action, rather, they explained that they wanted the crew members to solve their own personal problems with mature discussion. They further explained after the project had ended that “If the crew can’t solve problems among themselves, they can’t work together.” Ten days after the fight the doors between the Russian and the international crew’s chambers were barred. This request was made by the international team. Lapierre later explained that this action was taken for fear of violence, not the incident involving her and the general.
II. Key Issues:
An experiment to study isolation, in preparation for space travel ended in controversy. Judith Lapierre, who was 32 at the time of the study was the only female among several males. The New Year’s Eve party rapidly turned sour when vodka became part of the mix with the international crew. A violent fight broke out between two of the Russian cosmonauts, and a kiss between the Russian commander and Judith Lapierre. The two Russians had apparently settled their differences within minutes of the disagreement. However, Lapierre had later said “An unwanted French kiss when the woman says ‘no’ is completely unacceptable” (Warren, 2000).
There are many key issues at hand in the described text. Firstly, there was limited space for the participants to live and cope with one another. Secondly, with an extended stay in isolation tension as well as mental status will tend to rise and fall on a daily basis. Thirdly, there is a group of international crew members with different cultures, none of them with a common language. Finally, adding alcohol to the mix might have been the boiling point for a frustrated crew (Warren, 2000).
The biggest rift appears, however, to have been the violence that Lapierre witnessed the night of the party. The men looking at pornographic websites she could understand and deal with. Understanding that she was to be the only woman,...