But the study found sexual harassment occurs independently of how well or badly an organisation is managed and stems from attitudes that exist in society being brought into the workplace.
The research, published in the journal Work, Employment & Society, run by the British Sociological Association and SAGE, found that, although grievance procedures might give some protection against sexual harassment, they did not significantly change the amount of harassment that went on. It also showed that sexual harassment is more likely to take place in larger organisations, possibly because of the enabling effect of anonymity in large firms, with more junior workers being especially vulnerable.
The report is the largest meta-study of its kind and involved three sociologists at The Ohio State University in the US looking at 204 ethnographic studies of workplaces, mainly in the US and UK but also in France, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Japan.
The researchers found a link between how badly an organisation was managed and higher rates of management bullying, worker in-fighting and poor customer relations.
The researchers found that this link was stronger in large organisations, and that bullying by managers was more strongly related to poor management than worker in-fighting or poor customer relations. Organisational chaos, often caused by the threat of mass redundancies
, could promote bullying as it leads to managers losing control over their workers and lacking effective procedures for dealing with problems, the report says. This means managers have to use their own initiative to re-assert control and can be abusive in doing so.
Chaotic organisations also lack effective procedures for avoiding or dealing with conflict among staff or with customers. “Conflict with customers is also rooted, to some extent, in organisational chaos,” the study says. “When the service delivery process is managed incompetently, customers who do not get what they want are likely to direct their ire at the nearest target.”
French to debate forcing companies to make boards more representative of women
The ruling UMP party in France has proposed legislation that would ensure women make up half of those on the boards of companies listed on the Paris Stock Exchange by 2015.
A bill was submitted to the French parliament last week by Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre right party. If it becomes law, the change will be gradual, with 20% of boards having to be female within 18 months and 40% within four years. Only 10.5% of the boards of France’s leading companies are female.