Workplace Ridicule on the Rise

By Staff Report

Apr. 19, 2006

Tolerance in the workplace, also known as co-worker sensitivity, didn’t fare too well in America last year, according to an annual workplace ridicule survey conducted nationwide.

Nasty, rude comments made about others in the workplace over sex, homosexuality, ethnicity and disability were up in 2005 compared with 2004, a recent telephone survey by Boston-based Novations Group found.

The survey also showed that last year, racial slurs in the workplace nearly equaled those tallied in the company’s 2004 survey. Age-related ridicule of older workers also was reported by nearly one-fourth of those surveyed, primarily by workers under 34.

Most of those targeted for ridicule never hear the slurs themselves, says Novations spokesman Phil Ryan. Rather, they tend to be reported by those overhearing them from co-workers.

Men were more likely to report workplace ridicule about women, especially sexually inappropriate comments–41 percent to 29 percent–and slurs targeting gays and lesbians, for which they led reporting by nearly 2-to-1 versus comments about women.

Reports of anti-homosexual comments were more frequent in the West (45 percent) than in the Northeast (34 percent), the North Central U.S (33 percent) and the South (32 percent).

The survey did not collect data identifying the age and sex of the alleged sources of the derogatory comments or what the actual comments were.

“We’re not sure how valid the research is,” Ryan says. “All we know is we get very similar data every year, so we’re doing something right.”

Mirroring the prior three years, sexually related comments last year were the most frequently reported, by one-third of the employees. Their frequency hit 35 percent last year, up from 31 percent in 2004. Reported gay and lesbian bashing rose to 24 percent, up from 20 percent in 2004 but matching 2002 levels.

Mark Larson

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