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The Incidence of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Research Proposal Example

Pages: 10

Words: 2663

Research Proposal

Abstract

It is imperative for small and large organizations alike to follow a code of ethical practices that dictate proper action regarding interactions both in the workplace and with members of the community. Although many business leaders have learned the importance of ethical practices in the business setting during their formal education, many managers have deviated from these standards. Even in organizations that adhere to strict ethical regulations, leaders find that it is challenging to enforce ethical regulations. The present study will therefore evaluate the decisions that organizations can make in the present and in the future to ensure that their employees will adopt their designated code of ethics, which will contribute to the development of better business practices. In particular, it is essential to evaluate the business code of ethics as it pertains to mutual respect and the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is hypothesized that enforcing ethical standards that focus on the fair treatment of employees, through proper training and certification of all lower level staff, will contribute to a reduction of sexual harassment practices in the workplace and in turn, add to the development of a more effective organizational culture. To test this hypothesis, a survey will be conducted to evaluate worker knowledge with regards to their organization’s code of ethics. Next, an ethics awareness campaign and training program will be initiated to create meaningful change in the business environment. Last, the intervention will be evaluated by assessing employee behavior with regards to sexual harassment and a follow-up survey will be issued to determine changed perspectives pertaining to ethical behavior in the workplace.

Background

Altering employee behavior is conducive to workplace success. However, it is challenging to alter employee interactions in a manner that can positively benefit workplace culture. Sexual harassment is a social occurrence that has vast and far-reaching consequences and has been condemned by a variety of organizations and institutions across the globe. Previous studies have verified that sexual harassment is frequently reported to human resources in the modern workplace, which compromises a sense of safety and security at work (Dionisi, Barling & Dupre, 2012). Additional professionals propose that sexual harassment can compromise productivity and effectiveness in companies across various disciplines (Mainiero & Jones, 2013). As a consequence, many managers are dedicating their time to determine how they can reduce the frequency of sexual harassment cases in their practices.

It is important for managers to understand that sexual harassment is typically underreported in the workplace. When both male and female employees feel that their personal rights are being violated, they are more likely to lose motivation, which contributes to a reduction of effective organizational culture. Thus, the sexual harassment of even a few employees has the potential to compromise the efficiency of an entire team. Sexual harassment can be viewed as a form of bullying. In the work setting, this bullying can often manifest as a power struggle between employees, and could be subject by individuals higher in the workplace hierarchy or by those that are considered to be on the same level. By understanding sexual harassment in the workplace, it is reasonable to take action to reduce the frequency of its occurrence.

One significant problem regarding the frequency of sexual harassment in the workplace is that employers encounter challenges when determining how to define sexual harassment or what associated consequences of this behavior should be. By failing to design a clear code of ethical conduct for employees, these managers are therefore failing to set protocol to protect their workers. In most cases, when dealing with sexual harassment the actions that are in question are related to sex. Because this behavior is challenging to detect, many employees feel that they can get away with this behavior. To counteract this belief, many effective managers impose an ethical code stating that any behavior that makes an employee feel that they are being sexually harassed or made to feel uncomfortable in a manner related to their sexuality can constitute sexual harassment. By setting this rule in place, employees have clearer expectations regarding their involvement in sexual harassment in addition to the impacts of sexual harassment on those around them. When sexual harassment is deemed as a negative in organizational culture, this behavior is less likely to occur.

Increased incidence of sexual harassment is not only problematic because it makes employees feel uncomfortable, such behavior is a violation of an individual’s fundamental rights to health and safety. While men can be victims of sexual harassment, this type of behavior is typically exhibited against female employees. Organizations should be concerned about this ethical breach because sexual harassment acceptance in the workplace harms the image of the company and reduces the potential of work outcomes (Nielsen & Einarsen, 2012). Furthermore, when individuals engage in sexual harassment once, they are likely to engage in repeated behavior in the future (Diekmann, Walker, Galinsky & Tenbrunsel, 2013). It is therefore beneficial to put a protocol in place to make employees more aware about what constitutes sexual harassment and how it could be avoided. Preventing further incidents after an initial case not only helps the individual employee, but sets a precedent for success in the workplace (Diekmann, et al., 2013).

This research intends to further evaluate the measures that can be taken in order to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace. Furthermore, the executive decision making process that will contribute to these changes will be discussed. The primary question to be evaluated is “What decisions can organizations of interest make now and in the future to create and enforce a stringent code of ethics, ensuring that better business practices are adopted?” It is hypothesized that enforcing ethical standards pertaining to general practices and sexual harassment will reduce the frequency of sexual harassment complaints that occur among female workers. Furthermore, it is expected that implementing these enhanced standards will contribute to greater worker motivation and productivity among both males and females in the organization. It is essential to investigate new ways to promote fair treatment of employees in the workplace because doing so will allow managers to ensure that their workplace environment is safe and that their workers will be focused on the tasks for which they were hired.

Specific Aims

  • What is the current level of employee knowledge regarding ethical practices and sexual harassment in the workplace?
  • How can managers use ethical conduct and sexual harassment training programs to alter the mindset of employees regarding sexual harassment?
  • Does the implementation of an ethical conduct and sexual harassment training program effectively rectify employee misconceptions regarding ethical practices and sexual harassment in the workplace?

Methodology

The research design is based on information retrieved from previous peer-reviewed publications regarding the topic of sexual harassment in the work environment (Zikmund, Babin, Carr & Griffin, 2013). All publications utilized in this study were published within the last five years in order to ensure the timeliness of the information used as background sources. Online databases were searched using the terms “sexual harassment”, “code of conduct”, “ethics”, and “women”. A combination of these search terms were also included using the Boolean search term “AND”. Studies published from only reputable peer-reviewed sources were included. A majority of the studies included in the literature review were systematic reviews of the research, although several experimental studies were included as well. The literature review was used to determine the existing problems with regards to ethical breaches and sexual harassment in the workplace. Based on these findings, the following research methodology was generated to delve more deeply into the relationship between employee conduct programs and sexual harassment.

In general, the research methodology is designed in a manner that will allow for the measurement and assessment of the variables of employee knowledge on company policy pertaining to sexual harassment. Furthermore, this qualitative assessment will determine who is responsible for enforcing company policy, what the formal definition of sexual harassment is for the organization, and the relevant consequences of violating such policies. These variables will be evaluated through the use of assessments and other sampling methods designed to determine which factors compromise internal issues and business operations, contributing to avoidable delays in the work schedule. First, a survey will be conducted to assess how well the workers understand the code of ethics adopted by their organization. This questionnaire will be randomly distributed to employees of the selected organization to ensure that a random sample of the company is obtained and that bias is avoided during the data collection process (DesJardins & McCall, 2014). Approximately 50 employees will be contacted, with an expected 25% response rate. Thus, it is expected that 12-13 employees will fully complete the survey. Partially answered questionnaires will be included in the study, with an understanding that statistical assumptions cannot be made regarding unanswered questions.

The data gathered from the questionnaire study will be analyzed on the basis of the research study’s objectives in addition to the variable factors that are believed to potentially interact with these findings. The questions that comprise the questionnaire will contain a pre-coded fixing of alternative responses. Thus, the categories of the questionnaire will contain pre-coded answers in the form of fixed alternative responses, which will enable study participants to freely provide their desired response to the questionnaire, although the coding will help the research team identify the meaning of the response (Zikmund, Babin, Carr, & Griffin, 2013). Pre-coding will not be placed on the questionnaire itself to both avoid bias and prevent against the use of lengthy descriptions on the survey. All questions will be asked in plain English so all participants will be equally able to understand the text and provide meaningful answers to the prompts. Furthermore, coding will be automated through third party software. Once the questionnaires are distributed and submitted, the research team will be able to receive the data as a file via the third party software (Zikmund et al., 2013).

Respondents will be instruction to use 1-2 sentences or short answers to provide their responses. Alternate versions of each question will be provided in order to adequately assess the extent of the consistency and verity of the answers. The question, “Upon employment into the organization, did you receive mandatory ethics training?” will be included in the survey. In an alternate version to determine the consistency of these answers, participants will be asked, “Upon employment into the organization, did you receive the mandatory ethics training?” For the both versions of the question, the two pre-coded responses will include either “Yes, I have received the mandatory ethics training” or “No, I did not receive the mandatory ethics training”. Based on the wording of the response, the answer will then be determined to fall into either of these two categories. If a clear answer is not provided or if the respondent appears to be unsure about the answer, the question will not be marked for this individual. Thus, only a binary answer system will be allowed for some questions, while categorical responses will be allowed for others. This categorical question allows for clarification of the participant’s individual score. Each question on the questionnaire will come with its own set of pre-coded fixed responses depending on the question that is being asked. Once this data is collected, it will be considered utilizing inferential statistics. This is because the data collected will be used as an analysis of a sample population and their personal responses to the questionnaire (Jaffee, Strait, & Odgers, 2012). Following the analysis of the collected data, all data will be organized into easily readable graphs using a histogram as well as a pie chart. This will give the research team as well as other interested parties readily available data based on this specific research study (Jaffee et al., 2012).

Next, the manager will be asked to implement an ethical conduct and sexual harassment training program of his or her choice. An interview will be held with this individual to determine the strategy that will be used. If the manager cannot determine an effective intervention, one will be provided. The goal of this preliminary evaluation is to assess the impact of having such an intervention. A post-assessment will be provided to the employees who have undergone the relevant training and the answers that were provided prior to the training will be compared to the answers that were provided following the training. A student’s t-test will be utilized to determine the variance of the test results before and after the intervention. These results will indicate the degree of success that the training program had on employee knowledge regarding ethical conduct and sexual harassment, in addition to how these individuals believe this training will impact their personal professional practice.

Timeline

This study will take approximately five months to complete. Contacted study participants will be given one month to respond to the survey. They will be contacted weekly with a reminder to participate in the study if they have not already. At the end of this first month, all contacted individuals who have not responded will not be included in the study. At the beginning of the second month, the employee training program will be initiated. The manager will enforce the information taught at the training in practice throughout the month. At the start of the third month, study participants will be contacted for the post-assessment and have until the end of the month to complete their surveys. Next, beginning with the start of the fourth month, an analysis of the information will be conducted. This will include the aforementioned data analysis proposal in addition to the generation of charts and other diagrams to present the information more readily. The same will be done to determine the efficacy of the training program with respect to the change in survey responses. In the fifth month of the project, the report will be written and compiled in a manner that is sharable with organizations to provide them with insight regarding their management practices. Following the fifth month, this publication will be submitted to a relevant peer-reviewed journal for publication. Edits will be made as necessary.

Summary

It is expected that this study will provide insight to managers and other business professionals regarding the importance of ethical conduct and sexual harassment prevention in the workplace. It is valuable for managers to understand how to alter unethical practices in the workplace, and providing these individuals with one usable methodology will help them improve their organizational culture. Further studies should consider additional interventions, provided that the information collected in this initial study yield positive results. It is imperative for researchers to determine how to improve motivation and a sense of safety among feeling workers, and reducing the incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace is a meaningful way for this goal to be achieved.

References

DesJardins, J. R., & McCall, J. J. (2014). Contemporary issues in business ethics. Cengage Learning.

Devi, K. (2014). Sexual harassment of women at work place: myth and reality.

Vidhigya: The Journal of Legal Awareness9(2): 14-19.

Diekmann, K. A., Walker, S. D. S., Galinsky, A. D., & Tenbrunsel, A. E. (2013).

Double victimization in the workplace: Why observers condemn passive victims of sexual harassment. Organization Science24(2): 614-628.

Dionisi, A. M., Barling, J., & Dupré, K. E. (2012). Revisiting the comparative outcomes of workplace aggression and sexual harassment. Journal of occupational health psychology17(4): 398.

Ferrell, O. C., & Fraedrich, J. (2014). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Cengage Learning.

Jaffee, S. R., Strait, L. B., & Odgers, C. L. (2012). From correlates to causes: can quasi-experimental studies and statistical innovations bring us closer to identifying the causes of antisocial behavior? Psychological Bulletin, 138(2), 272.

Mainiero, L. A., & Jones, K. J. (2013). Workplace romance 2.0: Developing a communication ethics model to address potential sexual harassment from inappropriate social media contacts between coworkers. Journal of business ethics114(2), 367-379.

McLaughlin, H., Uggen, C., & Blackstone, A. (2012). Sexual harassment, workplace authority, and the paradox of power. American sociological review, 77(4): 625-647.

Nielsen, M. B., & Einarsen, S. (2012). Prospective relationships between workplace sexual harassment and psychological distress. Occupational medicine, kqs010.

Zikmund, W. G., Babin, B. J., Carr, J. C., & Griffin, M. (2013). Business research methods (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western.

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