Sexual jokes, flirtation at workplace always hurt: Study

April 7th, 2009 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 7 (IANS) New research has “sage advice” for employees and employers: avoid sexual behaviour at workplace at all costs.
Even harmless, non-harassing sexual behaviour - such as raunchy jokes which may get you laughs - at workplace hurts employees and employers in the end, warns a Canadian study.

The study carried by researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver says that any kind of sexual behaviour at the workplace does not benefit employees and the organisation.

In summing up their study, researchers Monday cautioned employees to “be careful of that raunchy joke that gets all the laughs. “As funny as folks at work may find it, it is probably hurting morale.”

As part of their study, the Canadian researchers surveyed more than 1,200 manufacturing, social service and university employees to know “about their psychological well-being, work withdrawal, and exposure to sexual behavior at work.”

They looked at the effect of sexual jokes, innuendo, discussions of sexual matters or flirtation in the workplace.

The researchers also investigated whether men and women got anything positive out of the sexual behaviour such as enjoyment and social bonding, the statement said.

After the survey, they found that though about 25 percent of employees found sexual behaviour fun and flattering, it didn’t have any positive impact on them.

“Even employees who enjoyed the (sexual) behaviour tended to withdraw from work, felt less valued and reported depressive symptoms more often than employees who experienced little to no sexual behaviour at the office. “The results were found among both women and men, working in manufacturing, social service and university jobs,” the researchers said the statement.

“We approached the study with an open mind,” said Toronto university professor and study co-author Jennifer Berdahl. “We thought, maybe these behaviours are a positive thing for employees who enjoy them. And then we found that they weren’t,” she said. Berdahl said the findings should be treated as “sage advice” to avoid sexual behaviour on the job.

“In our culture, sexuality has these connotations of domination, subordinance and vulnerability.

“Often a dominating behaviour is a way of making someone squirmy. Why bring this into the workplace?” Berdahl said.

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