Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment

Sexual Harassment is not a topic that is talked about very openly. Too often, victims of sexual harassment have to hear phrases such as “You were asking for it”, or “You are lying, you are doing it for the attention”, or other victim-shaming phrases. Moreover, the common misconception that only women can be victims to sexual harassment and assault is unfortunately still prevailing. This leads to victims not speaking up, in the fear of not being helped or even being made fun of. Especially in the workplace, sexual harassment is more common than one might think: Even when one only takes into account cases of sexual harassment that were openly admitted during a survey, 31% of female workers report that they had been harassed at work. More importantly, 62% of the targets took no action against it (Sexual Harassment Practice Group of Outten & Golden LLP, 2010).

A first step to change this, is to inform employees about what sexual harassment actually is. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2014), it is defined as „Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when 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.“

Now what can you, as an employee do, if you feel like you are being sexually harassed? Here are a few key issues to keep in mind:  (Sexual Harassment Practice Group of Outten & Golden LLP, 2010)

 

1)    Don’t ignore it

Ignoring the harassment can actually make the harasser engage even stronger in the behavior. Find the courage to speak up!

2)    Explicitly communicate to the harasser, that his/her behaviour is not welcome

This is an important point. Often the victim might seem like he/she enjoyed the advances, or even reponded to them. But this does not mean that the behaviour was welcome. Reciprocating the advances could be caused by fear, by shame, or just because the victim does not know how to adequately respond. Yet, the advances can STILL be unwelcome. In case a legal dispute is caused, it is important that the victim has somehow made clear to the harasser, that the advances were unwelcome.

3)    Inform yourself

It depends on the state you live in, the company you work with, and the specific circumstances of the situation, whether a behaviour can be classified as sexual harassment. It differs from a case to case basis. If you are unsure, it is advisable to get advice in the form of a lawyer before you do anything else.

4)    Keep a list about what happened and when it did happen

This is important to have as a proof.

5)    Report the harassment

Hereby you ensure that your company is aware of what is happening and can do something against it. It is useful to firstly inform yourself about the company’s rules and regulations when it comes to sexual harassment. Often information about this can be found in the company’s Code of Ethics.

6)    Human Resource Department

Keep in mind, that the Human Resource Department in the end has the best interest oft he company in mind, and not yours. Moreover, they are usually not forced to keep information confidential, and can share your complaint with anyone in the company.

What can you do to prevent such situations as an employer? Make sure that from the beginning on, you explicitly state how the company deals with sexual harassment and what your attitude towards it is. Do NOT ignore the topic.

Lastly, I would like to speak from a more general perspective. All of us have the potential to reach far in life, and to climb the hierarchical ladder oft he business world. I have no doubt, that some of us will end up at the very top. With a higher position in the hierarchy also comes legitimate power (Robbins & Judge, 2013). It is well-known, that power can corrupt. It can turn once ethical and thoughtful individuals into corrupt power politicians. We can, and should, all work together to create a friendlier, less corrupt, less sexist, and more sustainable work environment, where the focus is not only put on numbers, but also on the environment we live in, as well as the well-being of the people. When we go on with our lives, we should all keep the values we want to stand for in mind. Sexual harassment is an example of something that might not seem too „bad“, or too big of an issue to many, but it can have a big impact on the victims of it. Therefore, speak up when you see something or become a victim of it yourself, and make sure to do your best to create a friendly and supporting work environment, wherever each of you may end up in the future.

Sources 

Robbins, S. P.; Judge, T. A. (2013). Organisational Behaviour (15th ed.). Upper Saddle  River, N.J: Pearson/ Prentice Hall.

Sexual Harassment Practice Group of Outten & Golden LLP. (2010). Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Retrieved on the 25th of April, 2014 from http://www.workharassment.net/index.php/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace.html

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (25th. 04 2014). Facts About Sexual Harassment. Retrieved on the 25th of April, 2014 from  http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-sex.cfm

 

 

 

Knowledge Sharing in Organisations

Bill-Nye

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

Bill Nye

 

Knowledge sharing will definitely not be on top of the priority list for managers when they think about what to encourage their employees in. But perhaps it should: According to International Data Corp. (IDC), a Framingham, market intelligence and advisory firm in the IT and telecommunications industries, Fortune 500 companies lose around $31.5 billion a year due to them not sharing their knowledge (Babcock, 2004). If existing knowledge in an organisation is not shared, it leads to redundancies and inefficiencies. Moreover, the full potential of new ideas and inventions is not taken advantage of. It is not that organisations do not realize the importance of knowledge sharing, they actually invest tremendous amounts of money into new knowledge management systems. But why are there still so many inefficiencies? The topic of knowledge sharing is not only important on a higher level of a firm (for instance between different subsidiaries), but already concerns the lowest level, the sharing of knowledge between co-workers. Perhaps this is the right starting point to look at it.

 

In 20005 researchers looked into the dynamics between different teams and subsidiaries when it comes to knowledge sharing, aswell as the dynamics in those said teams (Hansen, Mors, & Lovas, 2005). They differentiated two things.

 

Firstly, the different phases of knowledge transfer:

1)   Deciding to seek knowledge

2)   Searching for knowledge

3)   Transferring knowledge

If for example, a person tries to gather knowledge about a certain topic, but the person that tries to transfer his expertise on that topic to him cannot do so because he does not know how to explain it, the whole process was useless.

 

Secondly, the authors differentiate between different networks:

1)   Within-team network (the network between the people in a team that is located in a specific subsidiary)

2)   Intersubsidiary network (a team’s established relations with those in other subsidiaries)

3)   Transfer network: a team’s dyadic relations: Those are only subsidiaries actually providing it with knowledge

 

Let’s look at the decision to seek for knowledge at all:

They found out, that

a)   The higher the density of a within- team network, the less likely the focal team is to seek knowledge across subsidiaries

b)   The higher the average strength of relations in a within-team network, the less likely the focal team is to seek knowledge across subsidiaries

 

The article concludes many other things, and if you are interested I would highly recommend you to read through it. But let’s look at why a strong team is so reluctant to search for outside knowledge? One would think that a well-coordinated, good functioning team would realize fast if information is missing and reach out to other teams or subsidiaries. Yet, there are several reasons for channeling their energy only towards their own team:

–       In group bias (The team members tend to overestimate the value of their team members’ contributions and undervalue those of external sources)

–       Not-invented-here-syndrome (This is a reappearing behavior across research literature, and basically shows people’s reluctance to accept ideas they did not come up with themselves)

–       Inward-looking absorptive capacity (That is a very interesting point: Through working together, the team starts to develop a common way of communicating, and a common set of terms with which they express themselves. Trying to communicate with external sources would be more time-consuming and less productive than communicating with people inside of the team)

 

What does this research show us?

Until now, most managers focused on having teams in which members feel comfortable with each other. This is necessary for people to open up and to work together efficiently. Yet, research like this shows managers that they should also keep this in mind: Too much comfort even in an efficient team can be detrimental to performance, due to missed opportunities in knowledge sharing. Thus, motivating employees to actively reach out to external sources, and mixing up teams every now and then might be a good idea. Actively promoting an open culture in which knowledge exchange is a priority should help to change the organizational culture to a more open one, and can in the end also lead to a better financial performance of the organization.

 

Sources

Babcock, P. (2004). Shedding Light on Knowledge Management . HR
Magazine
, 49 (5), 46.

Hansen, M. T., Mors, M. L., & Lovas, B. (2005). Knowledge Sharing in
Organisations: Multiple Networks, Multiple Phases. Academy of
Management Journal
, 48 (5), 776–793.

The Power of the Powerpose or “Fake it ‘til you become it”

Hey reader!

Yes, you! Before I start my topic, let me ask you a question: How are you sitting right now? Are you crouched in your chair, your shoulders hanging down, possibly your hand on your neck while you read this? Then let us try something: Please imitate for two minutes the poses shown in the pictures below. (Come on, don’t we all want to be Wonderwoman or Mick Jagger sometimes?)

Wonderwoman MickJagger

Done? Perfect! How are you feeling? According to Amy Cuddy, an American social psychologist, you should feel more confident, powerful, and less stressed right now than just two minutes before. You are possibly wondering how that could be, from just 2 minutes of imitating some pose? Then let us dive into the fascinating topic of the connection between your mind and body.

It is well known that our body language shapes how other people perceive us. Research has shown that non-verbal communication and mostly body language have a much larger influence on how others see us in a conversation, than the content of what we are actually saying.

You have probably also noticed, how your mind can influence your body: Just think about how your heart starts beating faster and your hands get sweaty when you get nervous.

Thus, we know that our body language can strongly influence other people’s perception of ourselves, and also, that our own mind can influence our body.

Now Amy Cuddy investigated the question of whether it can also be the other way around: Can our body influence our mind? She set up and experiment (similar to the one we just did when you started reading this):  Participants had to strike a powerpose for 2 minutes, while a control group had to imitate a low-power pose. After this, she asked the participants how powerful they felt, and measured different hormone levels. Here is what she found out:

The first hormonal change found concerned the testosterone level of participants. Testosterone is a sex hormone, often called the „dominance hormone“. Sometimes it is mistakenly referred to the male sex hormone, as men have a higher concentration of it than women. Yet, it is prevalent in women and men. High testosterone levels have been linked to higher risk taking, higher confidence levels, more dominance, and even ruthlessness. People who striked the high-power pose had a 20% increase in their testosterone levels, while „low-power-pose“ participants had a decrease of 10% in their testosterone level.

The other hormonal change was found in cortisol, a stress hormone. Again, the power pose had a positive influence, and the concentration of cortisol in the blood was decreased by 25% for the high-power-pose group. For participants striking the „low-power-pose“, it actually increased by 15%.

In general, high-power pose participants reported feeling more confident, powerful and competent. When you think back about the session on Emotions, this is actually proof that our displayed emotions/actions could change the ones we truly feel. Though surface acting can lead to emotional dissonance, which over long time can be harmful to your mental health, the experiment showed that surface acting can also have the capability to align your internal feelings with your displayed emotions!

How can we apply what we just learnt to our real life and organisations?

Personally, I can say that power poses work amazingly well. When I was in Washington DC for the case competition, our whole team made a point in walking around with a straight posture, smiling, and striking power poses before the presentation. What at the beginning seemed rather odd and sometimes even ridiculous to ourselves, soon began to work. We were told several times that we seemed confident, happy, competent and calm. But most important here was how we began to feel about ourselves. I could feel how I was calmer after striking a power pose and how I started to believe more in myself. By now, I actually incorporate power poses into my daily life, for example before presentations, or when I simply feel anxious or nervous about something.

Of course, this not only works for your personal life, but also in your work life.

It was shown that in a job interview, participants who striked a 2-minute power pose before, were significantly more likely to be selected for the job, regardless of the content of their interview. It was their overall presence that seemed more attractive and competent to the interviewers.

Moreover, by firstly knowing how you can signal others using your body language, you can use it to send positive signals to your coworkers, to seem more confident, and to underline the message you want to send. Secondly, by striking a power pose before an important presentation you can feel better about yourself and will also make your boss perceive you as more competent.

Try to incorporate the power pose into your daily life!  Begin by checking, every now and then, whether you could adjust your body language to how you want to feel at the moment (straighten your shoulders, smile). It might feel a little awkward at the beginning, but I promise you, it will be worth it!

Go here to watch the „Ted Talk“ of Amy Cuddy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc
Examples of high-power poses:

high power pose

Examples of low-power poses:

low power pose

 

Sources

Cockcroft, L. (2009). Women with high levels of testosterone ‘take riskier jobs’. The Telegraph. Retrieved
from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6085348/Women-with-high-levels-of-testosterone-take-riskier-jobs.html

Cuddy, A., & Talk, T. (2012). Your body language shapes who you are

Erdman, L. (2013). Hormones: The Hidden Leadership Tool You Are Overlooking. Huffingtonpost. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-erdman/hormones-the-hidden-leadership-tool-you-are-overlooking_b_3742660.html

Wenner, M. (2009). Smile! It Could Make You Happier. Scientific American. Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smile-it-could-make-you-happier/