You too? #MeToo: Workplace Power Imbalance

MessageThis Webinar is over
Date Apr 5, 2018
Time 12:30 PM EDT
Cost $15.00

Regardless of global location, the context of workplace conflict is present. It takes multivariate forms and occurs at every level of an organization, from the highest C-level to the newest “on-boards.” The latest available statistics show 72% of respondents in a cross-industry confidential survey claimed exposure to either gender or sexual harassment. Even higher, the reported incidence rate of either being a victim or a bystander – observer of bullying was above 85%. All of this during a period of global history when leadership consistently projects a “positive organizational culture” as one of the necessities aligned with sustainable processes and competitive advantages.

The existing statistics support an incontrovertible challenge to how organizations define an optimal workplace culture. When exploring an isolated type of organizational misbehavior, sexual harassment, finding a consistent working definition becomes a challenge. For this article on mediation methodology focused on “workplace-defined” claims of mistreatment, the definition offered by McDonald (2012), an expert in the sexual harassment field, is: “conduct unwanted or unwelcome, and has the purpose of being intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive.”

Most research focuses on the context of sexual harassment as the most common of many reported claims of mistreatment. The context is not exclusive to women, with research supporting sexual harassment as an extension of sex discrimination bi-directionally. Beyond sexual harassment, every other type of workplace misbehavior aligns with McDonald’s definition of sexual harassment, suggesting some common causative agency.

For example, workplace bullying is a construct where one or more individuals become subjected to persistent levels of negative behavior from all levels of supervisors, colleagues, or even subordinates. The most common type is a supervisor to subordinate targeted bullying that is triggered by a personality-driven power imbalance. One common misconception is that supervisor bullying stems from positional power; however, exploring a variety of potential bullying pathways dispels that myth.

Individuals scoring high on belonging or social interaction skills, regardless of position, exhibit a strong capacity to avoid conflict of every type. Other than via aspects of forced behavior, coping skills are exhibited through problem-solving, compromising voluntarily, avoidance techniques, and yielding to proper authority judiciously. The two main keys are the ability to project competency aligned with confidence.

Bullying and sexual harassment are quite different from the other types of conflict. They are targeted and intentional. Any defense of instigator behavior linked to being incidental or “by accident” are easily overcome. An example of sexual harassment can demonstrate this context.
Sexual intimidation, coercion, pandering, forced physicality, or rape are all examples of targeted exploitation of prey. The incidence of targeted exploitation rises the instigator to the level of a predator. In cases like these, the best recourse is reporting the criminal act to outside authority. Unfortunately, this happens rarely, especially in cultures where honor and shame are strong deterrents to reporting.
The subsequent claim aligned with the desire to maintain confidentiality is where mediation and the professional mediator are expected to enter the fray as third-party neutrals. Since it is easy to identify with perceived victims in these scenarios, what considerations should be in the mind of the mediator? Keep in mind; most jurisdictions have reporting requirements about types of abuse. Also, there is the ever-present component of fear and intimidation.
The keys are the mutual interests of the parties, the tenets of confidentiality, and the concept of over-arching self-determination. One should wonder why an alleged victim would eschew reporting for confidentiality. One very strong possibility is how a victim processes shame. If forced to report, could or would a victim choose self-harm or suicide instead of bearing the shame? In some cultures, that answer is a very strong “YES!”
The potential scenarios for workplace misbehavior rising to the level of conflict are infinite, and mediators must gain experiential knowledge to acquire optimal competency in this domain. Consider the twin antecedents of fear and intimidation.
If this topic is compelling, join us for webinar being hosted by Dr. Buddy Thornton on April 5th, 2018 at 10:30am PST. This article just whets the appetite. Consider joining us for the main course. Talking points shall revolve around how workplace mediation mimics restorative justice on one hand while aligning with relationship and culture considerations on the other hand.   ​


Create your own event
Turn your passion into a business.
Join our mailing list