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How to Deal with Gender Strife in the Workplace

May 1, 1995
Related Topics: Diversity, Featured Article
Because corporate executives are so afraid to admit that escalating gender tension is a problem in the American workplace, Personnel Journal could find no companies that have a comprehensive strategy for tampering it. Because no good program models exist, no one is really sure how to best deal with gender tension among employees.

Based on our research, we suggest that HR professionals:

  1. Admit that gender strife might be a problem at your company.
  2. Conduct employee surveys to learn how gender issues manifest themselves at your particular workplace.
  3. Start an ongoing dialogue between your male and female employees. Gender "summits" and communications workshops are a good first step, but don't stop there. Recognize that men and women may have different reactions to every corporate initiative. Learn what those sensitivities are, then address them as an ongoing part of business planning.
  4. Review HR programs such as sexual harassment prevention courses, diversity initiatives and work-family programs to make sure the needs of both men and women are addressed. Also, don't market these programs to just one gender or the other.
  5. Address employee stress pro-actively by searching for ways to alleviate the sources of that stress, such as overwork, miscommunication, restructuring, and so on. When employees feel threatened and overwhelmed, they're most likely to lash out at people with obvious differences. By keeping stress to a minimum, you'll be well on your way to creating a harmonious work force.
  6. Be patient. Men and women working together is still a relatively new phenomenon. Whereas younger people are more adept at overlooking sexual differences, older adults may still be guided—or misguided—by outdated stereotypes. Getting used to the co-ed workplace will take time.

Personnel Journal, May 1995, Vol. 74, No. 5, p. 52.

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