“In many respects, women are people too” and “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.
The report, conducted by soliciting firm Thomas Mansfield, 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.
Speaking to Executive Grapevine, Meredith Hurst, Partner at Thomas Mansfield, explained the implications of 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 can be found below, 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 HR do to help combat this issue? Hurst advocates a transparent and stringent system: “The first step is clear guidelines, consistently applied. A policy on workplace behaviour is one thing but that is only half the battle.
“Educating staff about the policy is just as important. After all, a rule book that is never followed is next to useless. Unfortunately, it is quite often management who are failing their staff. People find themselves in management roles but may lack the intrinsic management ability. Managers may be the perpetrators of bulling themselves, or seen as such by their oppressive management style
“Weak management can be just as damaging as burdensome management, particularly where managers who witness escalating behaviour do nothing until it is too late. There is a balance to be struck, of course, and this is where workplace coaches and trainers can add value. Policy and practice equals productivity.”