Employment Opportunity Commission Defines Sexual Harassment
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Employment Opportunity Commission Defines Sexual Harassment
As opposed to the formal relationships defined by a company or organization, informal relationships are relationships based on shared interests, mutual regard, and friendship. Informal relationships occur between employees in a business and professional setting, but such interactions have little to do with the company. Nonetheless, informal communication bet ween colleagues is important. Forging interpersonal relations and being familiar with other employees in the workplace helps coworkers feel comfortable, allows them to feel they have the social and emotional support of others, and creates a general sense of community (My ers et al., 2011).
It is for these reasons that Patrick and Dominique have a close informal friendship. These informal relationships are enjoyable for those involved and can also benefit the company in a number of ways. For example, informal relationships can increase employees’ enjoyment of work and solidify their place in the organization, reducing the likelihood of employee turnover (Myers et al., 2011). Further, employees who feel more familiar with one another are more willing to engage in communication related to the company, including problem solving, discussions, and decision making (Myers & Oetzel, 2003). Despite these benefits, some communication issues can arise that make these informal relationships problematic; a few of these are described below.
Many of us spend as much time at work as we do with our families or loved ones. We often become so comfortable with coworkers that we sometimes forget we must maintain professionalism in our interactions with them. Personal disputes in the workplace can make it difficult for people to work together to achieve organizational goals. To keep these disputes to a minimum, it is best to avoid discussing topics that deal with personal and moral values. The top three topics to steer clear of are sex, politics, and religion.
Charles Purdy, senior editor of job site Monster.com and author of the book Urban Etiquette: Marvelous Manners for the Modern Metropolis (2004), states that “if you make gender differences an issue at work, or if you let water-
cooler discussion head toward a sex- related topic, you do so at great peril” (p. 84). Some people may be comfortable discussing t opics of a sexual nature; however, many people are not. Discussing such topics may offend
some people, cause them to be uncomfortable, or create an environment that they feel is off ensive or hostile. Your comments might also be considered sexual harassment, which is aga inst the law.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassme nt as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature” (n. d., para. 1). However,
behaviors that constitute harassme nt do not need to be explicitly or blatantly sexual: Teasing someone because of their gender or making an offhand comment about a coworker’s body type can also count. Related to Ch apter 1,
in cases of harassment, it doesn’t matter what a person’s intended meaning is; it m atters what the recipient’s received meaning is.
Thus, it may just be safer to err on the side of safety and avoid making jokes or comments related to gender, sex, sexuality, and bodies. Politics and religion are also emotional issues for most people. A survey by the American Ps
ychological Association (APA, 2016), conducted during the 2016 presidential election camp aign, revealed that 20% of employees avoided a colleague due to their political views. Furth er, 27% of Americans in the survey reported
at least one negative outcome related to politi cal discussions at work, including engaging in conflict, feeling isolated, or being less productive (APA, 2016). Likewise, inappropriate jokes that use biased language have no place at
w ork; not only can they be offensive to many people, they can also violate company policies a nd create a hostile work environment, which can have legal ramifications for you and your company. Laughing and telling elaborate
stories about your weekend escapades, bodily fun ctions, and other personal issues also detracts from your professional image and reputation . The safest course is to keep your conversations to neutral topics. Resist the
temptation to make negative comments about political figures or issues, to complain about your job, and t o speak negatively about anything or anyone.
It is a mistake to ignore your manager’s or supervisor’s point of view on an issue, but it is al so a mistake to continually agree with him or her. Always siding with the boss can cause tro uble for you with your coworkers. You were
hired to be a contributor to a team effort, and y our success depends as much on your associations with your coworkers as it does on your r elationship with your boss. Roy Cohen, executive coach and author of the book The
Wall Str eet Professional’s Survival Guide, reminds us of the importance of good working relations wi th coworkers. It is important, he states, not to be a lone ranger. Make sure to be an integral part of the team and to socialize
with your colleagues at office functions (Cohen, 2010).
As we have discussed throughout this chapter, it is also important in professional settings t o pay attention to the informal communication networks that exist in every organization. T he grapevine is one of these informal
networks; the term refers to the way information is p assed from person to person in an organization through casual conversations rather than vi a formal channels. The grapevine is an important way to find out what is
happening throug hout the organization, and you should ensure that you are a part of that conversation path way. But not everything you hear via the grapevine is true. Gossip, which is not necessarily accurate or appropriate
information, is often transmitted via the grapevine. However, this i nformal network can still serve as an early warning system about possible changes or issue s and gives you an opportunity to check the information to determine
if it is accurate. Other informal networks might be the Friday night happy hour, the chatty group text, the c ompany softball team, and similar voluntary events or interactions that encourage employe es to come together outside
of the office. A great deal of information and relationship buildi ng occurs during these events, and it is important to participate in these opportunities and to socialize with people throughout your organization when possible. If
you have high com munication apprehension, which we discussed in Chapter 5, you may be less likely to desire to socialize with coworkers (McCroskey, 1976). Thus, it is important to utilize the strategie s discussed in Chapter 5
to do your best to make a good impression and maintain positive r elationships with your coworkers. Some of these strategies include developing communicat ion confidence, practicing your communication skills, and asking
others for help.
A coworker who organizes happy hours and birthday celebrations for colleagues is central i n an office’s friendship network.
Why Relationships Are Central to Job Satisfaction
Informal relationships and networks are not only important for your own career advancem ent, they also contribute to your job satisfaction. Research on informal, interpersonal relati onships in business and professional settings has found that a number of factors are associ ated with job satisfaction. One variable is the biological sex of the employee. For example, f or males but not females, there is a strong, positive relationship between having strong frie ndships in the workplace and job satisfaction (Morrison, 2009). Females were also less likel
y to leave their jobs when they had formed strong workplace friendships, which was not th e case for males (Morrison, 2009).
How we maintain workplace friendships is a second concept related to job satisfaction. Rel ationship maintenance, which we discuss in more detail in Chapter 8, is accomplished in w orkplace friendships via a number of specific communication strategies, including being po sitive or upbeat, sharing tasks, managing conflict competently, sharing social networks, bei ng open, giving advice, and assuring coworkers about the friendship (Madlock & Booth- Butterfield, 2012). Over 80% of employees in one study reported that they used positivity, conflict management, and sharing tasks strategies (Madlock & Booth- Butterfield, 2012). Further, each of the relationship maintenance strategies was positively r elated to job satisfaction in this study, with conflict management and positivity being the be st predictors of job satisfaction.
A third way to assess the relationship between informal workplace relationships and job sa tisfaction is by considering the centrality of an employee in a workplace friendship networ k. Network centrality focuses on how much an employee participates in and is connected w ith other individuals in a friendship network (Raile et al., 2008). This concept can be furthe r broken down into the following three related factors (Raile et al., 2008):
- degree, or the extent to which a coworker is connected to other individuals in the network • closeness, or the extent to which a coworker can be in contact or communicate with all othe
r members of the network • betweenness, or the extent to which a coworker mediates or becomes involved in interactio
ns between two other network members The coworker who organizes happy hours and birthday celebrations for the colleagues that she spends time with socially would be considered fairly central to that friendship network . Of
the three aspects of network centrality, Amber Raile and her colleagues (2008) found t hat only closeness was positively related to employee job satisfaction at a Korean organizat ion, possibly because closeness reflects an
employee’s ability to access organizational resou rces efficiently. Similarly, behaving in ways that benefit one’s colleagues, such as helping so meone who has a particularly heavy workload, is positively related to network
centrality in an international Taiwanese bank (Liu & Ipe, 2010).
Workplace norms vary by societal cultures. Geert Hofstede has dedicated his research care er to examining cultural dimensions, which, as we first described in Chapter 3, he first unco vered while analyzing survey data from the
global employee pool at IBM. Hofstede found th at while the global data made no sense altogether, there were correlative patterns identifia ble by country. He identified that certain countries (such as China and Venezuela) valued
gr eater communicative distance between subordinates and managers, while others (such as S witzerland and the United States) preferred individual goals over organizational goals. Thu s, although these survey respondents
worked for the same company, the workplace norms within each country differed. Hofstede warns readers that these overarching cultural patter ns should not be conflated with individual members’ values (Hofstede, 2011).
Challenges of Romantic Workplace Relationships
As we discussed, we often form friendships at work and can forge lasting bonds with peopl e through our professional associations. We may also become romantically attracted to the people at work with whom we interact.
From this attraction, a workplace romance might bl ossom. Workplace romances occur “between two members of an organization where sexua l attraction is present, affection is communicated, and both members recognize the
relation ship to be something more than just professional and platonic” (Horan & Chory, 2011, p. 56 5).
Unlike non- workplace romantic relationships, workplace romances often involve two employees who must continue to interact with each other and perhaps even depend on each other to compl ete job tasks even after their
romance has ended (Pierce, Byrne, & Aguinis, 1996). These ty pes of relationships are quite common: A survey by Careerbuilder.com (2018b) found that 36% of workers had dated someone they worked with, and 31% of these
romantic partners went on to marry someone they met in the office.
Workplace romances may be common, but they can also be complicated and problematic. T hey can affect not only the relationship participants but those around them at work. At a mi nimum, the romantic relationship may be a
source of gossip among coworkers. Those who were personally told about a coworker’s new workplace romance had more positive percep tions of the relationship than those who found out secondhand, such as through gossip
or c atching their coworkers “in the act” (Cowan & Horan, 2014). Workplace romances can also have a negative effect on coworker morale and productivity; specifically, there is less trust, solidarity, and caring and less accurate
and honest self- disclosure when interacting with someone who is dating a superior (Horan & Chory, 2009, 2011). Another important issue to consider before you get involved in a workplace romanc e is that many businesses and
organizations have rules or policies that discourage, prohibit, or restrict their employees from having a romance with someone who works in the same o rganization or the same unit. It is wise to check your company’s policies
and consider your colleagues’ perceptions of you and your potential partner before entering into a relationshi p with.
Employment Opportunity Commission Defines Sexual Harassment
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Employment Opportunity Commission Defines Sexual Harassment