"if she’s pregnant she doesn’t want a career” are just two of the comments that have come to light following a recent survey, conducted by soliciting firm Thomas Mansfield.
They offered UK employees the chance to submit some of the most disturbing things they had overheard in their workplaces. The research found that rude and insulting remarks are still very much commonplace in offices today.
Meredith Hurst, Partner at Thomas Mansfield, commented on the survey, “Sadly, offence in the workplace is nothing new. We do live in more tolerant times but, when people are brought together, it is all too easy for a tribal mentality to take over, particularly in traditionally male-dominated working environments such as construction or financial markets…It may be overstating it to suggest that such behaviour is on the increase, or that it is going to have more of a marked effect on the British workplace than it already does, but what our research does show is that offence shows no sign of abating. This can take the form of; mild jokes focussing on a colleague’s characteristics, which, when repeated, become wearing on the individual; more extreme barrack room comments; and, at the most extreme, threats of violence.”
A selection of the most worrying have been provided by Thomas Mansfield;
“You can’t contribute, you’re only 20.”
“Bisexuals are just greedy.”
“In many respects, women are people too.”
“The French are always on strike.”
“Why is he so angry? Must be ginger rage!”
“She’s tiny, she’s the perfect height for a…”
“She’s only here because she’s rich and she knows somebody.”
“Eat your lettuce and shut up!”
So what can we do about it? TAKE ACTION!
- Offer conflict coaching, mediation and harassment advisors, rather than counselling, to get people back from sick leave taken due to conflict.
- Make sure no one inadvertently bullies or harasses, out of ignorance or a lack of skill.
- Tackle the skills and confidence gap stoppping staff stepping to to stop it!
- Find out why in your organisation people are unwilling to ‘go formal’ by running focus groups and surveys.
- Run training that gives a model that makes sense of their responses and feelings to un welcome comments.
- Abandon the ‘witch-hunt’ approach in favour of something more akin to an Alcoholics Anonymous approach.
- Review your thinking about ‘Zero Tolerance’!!