The clash between old attitudes and new expectations

The clash between old attitudes and new expectations

14/03/2019
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Video from iHR eLearning "Workplace Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment for Employees"

Following last weeks celebration of International Women's Day, the iHR Australia team have identified some emerging anecdotal evidence of a clash between old attitudes and new expectations.

It did not require much analysis to realise that iHR Australia investigated more sexual harassment claims in 2018 than in any other previous year. The flow of enquiries has been intense. But what did capture our attention was that there was an upward trend of allegations of sexual harassment made by ‘younger’ women against men in more ‘senior’ and powerful’ roles. Perhaps this is because women now feel more empowered to come forward and say something.

It could be argued that this is a positive outcome of the #metoo movement and the efforts of organisations to better educate their people to come forward in such cases. Another view is that there is an overly heightened sensitivity that produces ‘frivolous’ complaints that lack substance. The latter view is NOT supported by our statistics that indicate around 70 percent of the investigations iHR Australia conducted into sexual harassment during 2018 were substantiated. This compares with around 30% of bullying allegations being substantiated.

At this stage it is too early to work out whether our observations are a trend or simply a spike. However, according to iHR Australia Managing Director Stephen Bell, it is a matter of relevance. ‘We often talk about and engineer or accountant remaining relevant to their profession by attending seminars and courses, then applying their learnings to their daily work life. The same goes for general conduct, especially for those who are leaders. That goes for men and women. Relevance equals understanding and working in accordance with the purpose and expectations of the environment you are working or leading in.’ 

Are men being singled out? Says Bell ‘There is no doubt more experienced men are often at the pointy end of this change in expectations.  Thankfully, you can’t bring a nineteen eighties boys club mentality to work with you and expect not to be called anymore-at least in Australia. It’s healthy. We learn and grow by adapting to new environments.’ There is, however a risk of men with older style habits feeling alienated by what they might perceive as an unfair focus on their conduct and ridiculous and politically correct views and expectations.  Says Bell ‘This is definitely a work in progress. Some men whose pattern of behaviour’s are considered inappropriate in the new world are sincerely making the effort to change, but sometimes fall into old habits. They deserve the chance to learn from mistakes and have key messages taught and reinforced. Beating people up over their mistakes rarely works’.

‘This is about the conduct of both men and women in the workplace.  Especially those in power. We see some pretty horrid examples of conduct by senior women as well. I’ve seen just as much rampant workplace drinking and poor role modelling behaviours from executive women as I have from men. It’s not just about men learning. It’s about people, a lot of them who learned their craft in the seventies and eighties. Their technical and social experience is incredibly important, but expectations have changed so for some it means changing some habits. This includes how some men interact with women in the workplace’ Bell affirms.

Read more about our Custodians of Culture: Anti-Discrimination and Bullying Training for Managers or enquire about the eLearning Program “Workplace Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying for Employees”.
Contact 1300 884 687 for more information