Term Paper: Business the Inclusive Workplace

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[. . .] The one area that applies to gender equality but not cultural equality is sexual harassment.

Firstly, to define sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2002) provides the following definition of sexual harassment:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

From the angle of the law, sexual harassment is defined as "a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964... Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature" (Berlin 2002). The law then further divides sexual harassment into two types: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo is defined as "situations where employment decisions such as hiring, firing, or promotions are contingent upon the employee providing sexual favors" (Berlin 2002). Hostile work environment is defined as "situations where the employee's work environment is made intimidating, hostile, or offensive due to the unwelcome sexual conduct and the conduct unreasonably interferes with the employee's work performance" (Berlin 2002). This last kind refers not only to individuals making sexual advances but also to factors in the environment, such as posters of a sexual nature being displayed, individuals keeping sexual materials on their computers or discussions of a sexual nature. In short, anything in the environment that makes either male or female employees uncomfortable based in sexual issues, is a form of sexual harassment.

Next, it is important to consider the impact of sexual harassment. The most obvious impact is a court case where the company is sued. A court case involving Mitsubishi shows the effects of sexual harassment. As Grossman (2002) describes:

Mitsubishi settled a sexual harassment case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in which widespread and pervasive harassment within the company was alleged. In the settlement, Mitsubishi paid 34 million to the victims in the class represented by the EEOC, and paid several million more to private plaintiffs bringing similar complaints."

This case effectively shows the financial cost associated with sexual harassment. As well as the financial cost, there is also the cost to a company's reputation.

It must also be considered what effect sexual harassment has on the work environment. Sexual harassment causes individuals stress and in a situation where sexual harassment is ongoing, can cause a significant decline in the work environment. This poor work environment then creates stress for all employees, reduces motivation and is likely to increase employee turnover. This effect on the environment can occur where the sexual harassment is in the form of a hostile work environment or in the form where individuals are being harassed. Consider the case where an employee is promoted because of their willingness to agree to giving sexual favors. In this case, the other employees are likely to be effected by this as they will see it as unfair that promotions are not being chosen based on fair criteria. Overall then, other than the obvious problems of the financial cost of being sued, an organization is also impacted in other ways even if the sexual harassment goes unreported.

Clearly, then an organization needs to create an inclusive environment where sexual harassment cannot occur and where diversity in employees, both gender and cultural differences, is respected. This is necessary from a legal perspective and also from the perspective of how best to manage employees. As was noted in the introduction, employees are increasingly being seen as a major source of competitive advantage. The organization that creates an inclusive environment that is best for all employees, gets the most from their employees.

Creating an Inclusive Workplace

The benefits of an inclusive workplace have now been identified. The next step is to consider how an organization creates an inclusive workplace. An inclusive workplace has several major characteristics.

Fair Systems

One of the characteristics of an inclusive organization is the recognition that employees are different. To ensure that these differences do not create bias, systems need to be developed that protect employees and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

Organizational systems such as performance reviews, procedures and policies provide a concrete and stable system that does not change. These systems are capable of making it clear what is required of employees. They are also beneficial as they remove any bias individual managers may have, ensuring employee receive fair rewards.

Reward Systems

Reward systems are an important part of organizational culture, they communicate to employees what is valued by the organization (Robbins, Bergman & Stagg 1997, 84). Reward is the basic motivation for people. Employees will focus on what they are rewarded for (Billsberry 2000, 59). While there is a focus on monetary reward, this can also include praise and increased self-worth. This is where control impacts on motivation. An employee will only be motivated if they experience adequate reward for their efforts.

The reward systems need to be designed with consideration given to the diversity of the workplace. Diversity means that all employees are not the same. Some employees require money only as a reward, others need a sense of self-worth. By recognizing the diversity of individuals, it can be assured that the reward and control systems work to motivate everyone.

Support Systems

The multicultural workplace also has the potential for problems, such as conflict and communication difficulties. To prevent these from being a problem, support systems need to be developed. These support systems are designed to educate and give employees the skills to be effective in a multicultural environment.

Moss-Kanter (1994, 106) notes that there is a requirement for "people involved in the relationship to have the communication skills and cultural awareness to bridge their differences."

This requires having people trained, having people aware of the value of a multicultural workforce and having people aware of the cultural differences. It is also important that conflict be expected. If conflict is managed, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Systems need to be developed then, to allow for conflict situations to be managed effectively.

The support systems required then, involve employee training, encouraging awareness of cultural differences and conflict management systems. Having these systems helps ensure the multicultural workplace is as effective as possible and prevents problems from disrupting it.

Organizational Culture multicultural organization is one that has employees of different cultural backgrounds and also one that respects other cultures. To encourage the respect for other cultures, the organization requires an internal culture that supports it.

The culture needs to focus on accepting others differences and having a flexible outlook. This means accepting that there is no 'one best way' and being open to the opinions of others. In short, the company needs to develop an internal culture that matches what it expects of its employees.

One of the major causes of sexual harassment is the culture of an organization. The case of Mitsubishi illustrates this. As Grossman (2002) says, "The evidence in the lawsuit showed an environment in which harassment was as routine and commonplace as coffee breaks." In this case, the culture was one where sexual harassment became routine and accepted practice. This was also evidenced by the fact that the situation did not relate to just one employee. Instead, "More than 300 female employees joined the suit, complaining of groping, fondling, lewd jokes and behavior, and obscene graffiti plastered in work areas" (Grossman 2002). The culture or environment then is one major component of sexual harassment.

Grosenik expresses the importance of getting to the base of the problems rather than attacking the symptoms saying:

In any attempt to change the values of an organization, whether it is through the education of its participants in moral principles, or the imposition of leadership committed to higher ethical principles, the contents of the existing organizational culture must be dealt with directly for positive change to occur" (Grosenik 1994, 183).

To begin with then, an organizational must have a culture that incorporates the need to be inclusive and accept others. The first step is to include inclusive behavior in the organization's mission statement, aims, goals and values. It is also important that these are not empty statements but are also backed up by actions by the organization.

Policies to Define Correct Behavior

In an inclusive workplace, different employees are present with different attitudes. To prevent these different attitudes from becoming forms of treating employees differently, policies need to be implemented that determine correct behavior.

This is especially important in relation to sexual harassment. One book on the subject shows that sexual harassment is largely a product of a very confused business world, and in this confusion, people who cannot adapt become sexual harassers. This includes males who are trying to find their place in a changing workplace and women who are doing the same… [END OF PREVIEW]

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