Male/Female relationships in the workplace have always been an important organizational consideration. At times, depending upon prevailing winds of culture, they’ve been a challenge, perhaps none more so than today.
In no particular order, here are a few things we’ve learned:
¨ God created all human beings, male and female, in his image – Genesis 1:26. God made men and women equivalent in value and importance – 1 Corinthians 11:11-12.
¨ Considering appropriate and professional male/female relationships in the workplace should neither be a “witch hunt,” nor a “whitewash.”
¨ Both male chauvinism and radical feminism are unproductive and needlessly and inappropriately provocative in the workplace (and for that matter in any part of life).
¨ The family culture of a person’s upbringing, or the current family culture in which they live, greatly influences how the person approaches male/female relationships in the workplace.
¨ There are “huggy” and “non-huggy” people, and non-huggy people do not generally appreciate being hugged by huggy people, even if the latter are offering a hug with the purest of motives and in a manner that is generally considered acceptable in polite company.
¨ At least seven types of problems can develop from inappropriate and unprofessional male/female relationships in the workplace:
1) Unpleasant or uncomfortable workplace environments in which the attitude and atmosphere is tainted by sexually-charged or gender-related jokes or comments (e.g. references to PMS, appearance, etc.) or use of a demeaning or trivializing vocabulary (e.g. “gals,” “the boys,” references to body parts or physiological functions, etc.).
2) Devaluation of women’s comments, opinions, perspectives in the workplace.
3) A generally unstated but sometimes evident expectation that women should always defer to men in authority.
4) The Glass Ceiling – an ostensibly invisible barrier in the organizational hierarchy above which women may not be promoted.
5) Touching – physical contact that, even if not intended as a sexual advance, could be interpreted as such by the recipient or others. Physical contact not generally considered sexually oriented that may still be unwanted by the recipient.
6) Sexual harassment – direct sexual advances or references or other forms of sexually-charged touching, threats of workplace discipline or dismissal, or offers of advancement related to requested sexual favors, etc.
7) Immorality – adultery or affairs among coworkers.
¨ Any one of these problems can destroy careers, marriages, or lives. Consequently, they are important for more than simply contemporary political correctness or diversity reasons.
¨ While there is a biblical teaching called “submission” that relates to husband and wife relationships in a marriage, God never said that women should be “submissive” to every man they meet.
Some practical considerations: take reasonable care when meeting with someone of the opposite gender, e.g. leaving an office door open, refraining from covering office door windows, not meeting in obscure places, particularly away from the workplace, not traveling with a member of the opposite gender without others present, etc.
The real bottom line of male/female relationships in the workplace is respect. Men and women are uniquely gifted even as they are equal in the eyes of God. Each person has value. Each person must be treated with dignity as an image-bearer of the Creator.
In the end, there are moral, legal, professional, and practical reasons why men and women should exercise mature ethical judgment in how they relate to one another in the workplace.
God is honored as we honor others.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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