Disrespect due to Gender and Stereotyping.
“Derogatory Attitudes-Personal” (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2008, p. 293) BACKGROUND
In the text, Kreitner and Kinicki (2008) refer to an example of stereotyping and a “surface level dimension of diversity” influencing one’s behavior. They go on to say “These dimensions, for the most part, are not within our control, but they strongly influence our attitudes and expectations and assumptions about others, which, in turn, influence our behavior.” (p 37). This definition of stereotyping is the basis for our observation of derogatory attitudes that has occurred within the workplace.
Upon entering the office for the first time, it was easy for the new Operations Officer to see basic issues that occurred between staff members. The main issue seemed to occur between the only 2 women in the office and the remaining staff members who are men. They are implying that certain housekeeping duties are only the responsibility of the females in the office. 95% of the employees who are participating in this derogatory behavior are contractors within the organization. Their perception of power seems to extend to areas outside of their responsibility, to include the staff section, which the Operations Officer oversees.
In the organization, there is a break room with a sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee pot. It is every employee’s responsibility to clean up after themselves and keep the break room in order, yet it is implied that most of these duties are currently the responsibility of the females in the office.
The administrative assistant seems to be the main focus of hostility and this seems to be causing her frustration. She has had experienced derogatory comments and disrespect from the men, all contractors, on a consistent basis. On many occasions, she has said that some of the "gentlemen" pass her and complain in a condescending way, "We ran out of coffee this morning!" She also has stated that the other male employees in the office never cleaned up after themselves, left dishes in the sink, and always made comments towards her about the coffee pot being empty or why the dishwasher hadn’t been filled and turned on. This is neither her responsibility nor the responsibility of the other woman in the office, but it seems to be an expectation of the majority of the men in the office.
The administrative assistant voiced her concern to the female Operations Officer. The Operations Officer decided it would be best to bring this issue to the full attention of the Deputy to see if that might nip it in the bud. There was a meeting with the administrative assistant, Operations Officer and the Deputy. The Operations Officer suggested that the Deputy send out an email to the employees reminding everyone of their break room responsibilities to include coffee making and clean up. As a follow-up, it was also suggested that there be an employee meeting to discuss this and other office issues and to communicate expectations going forward. The Deputy delegated the responsibility to the Operations Officer and told her to send out the email reminding all the employees of the expectation. An email covering all these issues, along with a requirement to attend an all-hands meeting the following week was sent out to all employees.
The same day as the email, there was a luncheon to farewell one of the employees. During lunch, one of the guys laughed and made fun of the email. Instead of using this opportunity to address this issue, the Deputy joked about the issues along with the male employees.
The all-hands meeting occurred the following week, but the operations officer could not attend. The Deputy did not discuss any of the issues that had been brought up in the initial meeting and the administrative assistant and the operations support staff felt even more disrespected.
The problems have continued, and the attitudes toward the women have not changed. This may eventually cause the administrative assistant to leave the organization due to her uneasy feelings of being unappreciated.
The alternatives we have come up with are listed below:
•File a formal Inspector General (IG) complaint! (most likely non viable) •All employees involved need to be counseled and given a warning. •The Operations Officer should have a one on one talk with the Deputy without the administrative assistant present. Have a serious conversation about the nature of the problem. There are possible legal implications as well as the negative effect on morale of the organization. •Give each person or section the responsibility of making coffee. Make a schedule. •Take the coffee pot and supplies out of the break room. In other words take the privilege away. People can make coffee in their own offices or bring in a cup from home. •The Senior Director should be brought into the situation and he conduct a meeting with all employees addressing this situation. •Fire the contractors who are the problem. •Go to the manager of the contracting company and get them involved. •Senior management should have another meeting, describing the duty of the ladies, emphasizing that clean-up is not a part of this. •Conduct diversity/sensitivity training by Equal Opportunity Officer. (AR 690-12)
We have decided that our best alternative with proper steps is as follows: •Conduct a meeting involving the Director, the Deputy Director, the Contract Lead and the Operations Officer regarding the current situation. This brings the senior level manager into the loop. •After the initial meeting is conducted, the Director will have a meeting with the administrative staff to discuss the problem and to address his concerns and actions that will be taken to rectify the current situation. •Next, the Director will meet with the Contract Lead to address the concerns and request that the Contract Lead counsel his team in writing. •The Director will then lead an “all-hands” meeting. During the meeting, an Equal Opportunity Officer will be invited to conduct sensitivity training. There will also be discussion regarding the severity of the current situation. The Director will set expectations and clarify that everyone is responsible for break room duties. He will also formally put the Operations Officer in charge of this function and request that everyone respect the Operations Officer if the situation should begin to reverse itself once again and that the Operations Officer will be making constant reports to the director regarding the situation. •The Operations Officer will need to monitor this situation closely. With close monitoring and annual follow on training for all employees, this should clarify that this issue is serious and cannot be tolerated in the workplace.
Is this a case of sexual harassment? Based on the text, Kreitner and Kinicki (2008) suggest that this derogatory attitude exhibited by the gentlemen in this organization is one of the “behavior categories of sexual harassment.” “…sexual harassment is a complex and multifaceted problem.” The authors go on to say that “Women and men tended to agree that sexual propositions and coercion qualified as sexual harassment, but there was less agreement about other aspects of a hostile work environment.” (pg 293) We agree that though this is an inappropriate way to act in today’s work environment, we weren’t 100% sure that this is a black and white case of sexual harassment. By the information given in the text that we have just reviewed, and that the administrative assistant had to endure the comments made by her co-workers, this is an issue that needs to be reviewed and corrected by management in order to work towards a more positive work environment for all. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations that must be re-addressed every so often. People begin with good intentions to do better and slip back into their old ways. This must be constantly reinforced. Respect should be a big part of any organization’s culture, and this starts from the top. The senior managers in this organization must set the example and create the expectations for their employees. Having the Director set the tone will help redefine the steps to change the environment that has been established within the organization. References Kreitner, R., & Kinicki, A. (2008). Managing diversity: Releasing every employee’s potential. In J. Weimeister & D. Xu (Eds.), Organizational behavior, Eighth edition (p. 37). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Kreitner, R., & Kinicki, A. (2008). Group dynamics. In J. Weimeister & D. Xu (Eds.), Organizational behavior, Eighth edition (p. 293). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Headquarters Department of the Army. (1988). AR 690-12: Army regulation 690-12. Equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.