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At the completion of this module each student should be able to:
It can be said that almost every problem, every conflict, every mistake, or
every misunderstanding is based on a communication problem. We are
constantly communicating both in our personal lives and on-the-job.
Communication is defined as the interchange of thoughts, opinions, or
information by speech, through writing, or through signs. In general terms,
communication is 10% words, 40% tone and 50% body language.
TYPES OF COMMUNICATION
There are two general types of communication; verbal and nonverbal.
Verbal communication involves not just the specific words used but
also the vocal tone and the speed with which we talk. To go one step
further, verbal communication involves everything we, as a listener, hear
when talking to another person or persons. All aspects of the speaker's
vocal qualities contribute to the message that we receive.
Nonverbal communication, on the other hand, involves everything that the
listener or receiver sees during a conversation. Body language, facial
expressions, nervousness, physical grooming, personal mannerisms and
other idiosyncrasies are all components of nonverbal communication.
Verbal and nonverbal communication work together to give us the complete
communication picture. If they match and are consistent with each other,
they strengthen and underscore the meaning of the speaker's message. If
they are inconsistent, for example, the speaker verbally says that they are
'fine" yet their body language is one of nervousness. We disregard the words
and will believe the body language. Verbal and nonverbal communication occur
Verbal communication is the exchange of information using words.
Reading and writing are also forms of verbal communication but, for
this topic, the emphasis will be placed on the spoken word.
The basis of verbal communication is language. Language is using words
in a way that allows people to share information effectively. Whatever
language is being used, whether it is language from another country or
specialized phrases used in your specific occupation, there must be a
common understanding of the definitions in order to convey a clear
Nonverbal communication is the exchange of information without the
use of words. Nonverbal communication is often defined as "what we
Nonverbal body language is spontaneous, and, in many instances, will
more accurately reflect the person's state of mind (whether it is the listener
or the speaker). Posture, gestures, and physical movement are all
unconscious indicators of how we feel about what is being said and how
we feel about the person saying it. Body language is our barometer about
what is really happening and what the true meaning of any communicated
message is. The basic types of nonverbal communication include:
Eye contact is a powerful communication tool. A glance, for example, is
often an attention getting method to open a conversation. Eye contact
also suggests respect and a willingness to listen. On the other hand, a
lack of eye contact often indicates that a person is avoiding communication.
It may indicate anxiety or a sense of defenselessness. The eyes also
carry many nonverbal messages such as fixing in a stare when angry,
narrowing in disgust, and opening wide in fear or surprise.
The face is the most expressive part of the body. A few examples of the
various messages facial expressions convey are anger, joy, suspicion,
sadness, fear and contempt.
The manner in which a person holds their body carries nonverbal messages.
A person in good health and with a positive attitude usually holds their
body in good alignment. A depressed or weary person is more likely to
slouch. A person's posture can also provide nonverbal clues concerning
pain and physical limitations.
A bouncy, purposeful walk usually carries a message of well-being. A less
purposeful, shuffling gait can mean that the person is sad, discouraged,
fatigued or is just not clear as to their next action.
Physical gestures can convey many different messages. For example, some
common gestures include thumbs up for victory, thumbs down meaning a
negative feeling or viewpoint, kicking an object or having clenched fists
often expresses anger, wringing of the hands or tapping the foot usually
means anxiety, tension, or nervousness, a wave of the hand serves to
beckon someone to come, or, if waved in another way, signifies that
someone is leaving. Gestures are also used extensively when two persons
speaking different languages attempt to communicate with each other.
The type of clothing worn and the person's grooming practices also carry
significant nonverbal messages. Generally, for example, healthy persons
with good self-esteem tend to pay attention to details of dress and grooming
while persons with low self-esteem show much less interest.
Periods of silence during communication also carry important nonverbal
messages. The silence between two persons may indicate either a complete
understanding of each other, or, a lack of agreement with each other's
actions or viewpoints.
The use of touch can be a valuable communication tool. Touching someone
in sympathy or compassion often says more than words can. Teachers
can motivate or empower students simply with a pat on the shoulder. Casual
touching can also draw the listener's attention to a point being made by the
THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS
Generally speaking, the communication process has five basic elements;
two people (the sender and the receiver), two processes (sending
and receiving), and one message. The problem, of course, is finding the
best way to get the communication or message from one person to another.
The speaker says what they want to say to the receiver by selecting words
that will best convey their meaning and by using a variety of gestures,
facial expressions, or other personal mannerisms that will help transmit
that message. The message is composed of three elements, verbal, vocal
and visual. Words are used to make up the verbal element while intonation
and stress make up the vocal element. The visual element includes everything
the listener sees while the message is being conveyed.
The listener "receives" the message through a series of "filters." These
filters may include their past experiences, their perception of the speaker,
their emotional involvement with the message, their understanding of the
message's content, and their level of attention. In a sense, as the speaker
speaks the listener translates the message into their own words, creating
their own version of what they think the speaker has just said.
Unless both the sender and the receiver have identical past experiences,
effective communication may be difficult. Without clear and concise
communication skills misunderstandings can frequently occur.
Communication is influenced by the way people feel about a subject, a
task or a person. For example, in order for students to learn from a teacher
they need to feel that what is being taught is of value. In the same sense,
taking instruction from a supervisor who does not have the worker's respect
may also be difficult. Each of us must realize that our feelings and emotions
play a significant role in effective communication.
Truly, effective communication can not be a one-sided monologue. To
persuade, inform, or change the listener, both the sender and the receiver
must be actively involved. Communication is continuous and reciprocal.
Both persons mutually and continuously send and receive messages.
When people communicate they must also offer "feedback about the
message. To give feedback is to respond to the message or the speaker
in such a way that the speaker knows that the message has been heard
and understood. Communication is not complete until the message has
been understood. Feedback can include asking questions, nodding the
head in affirmation or in a negative manner, or a verbal reply.
Communication barriers are generally found in three areas; the way a
message is sent, environmental interruptions, and how a message is
received. While communication can break down in other ways, people
who understand these problem areas have better control of the
communication process and have fewer misunderstandings as a result.
As speakers, the messages we send, whether verbal or written, seem
perfectly understandable. From our own point of view, our messages are
very clear and concise. To the listener, however, the words may be confusing
or unclear, our tone of voice may be misleading, or our body language may
not accurately convey the meaning or the importance of the message.
Messages should be formed based on the listener's level of understanding.
Think through the message and try to predict how it will be received.
The responsibility of determining whether effective communication has
occurred lies with the sender. To make certain that the message was
understood, the speaker should get some type of feedback from the listener.
As previously stated, this feedback could include a nod of the head, a
restating of the message by the listener or some other response.
The environment may also have a tremendous impact on communications
especially in the construction trade. Many conditions exist, both in the
shop and on-the-job, that can make communicating complex ideas or
instructions almost impossible. Environmental factors such as: noise,
extreme temperatures, and distracting activities can all interfere with the
communication process. You can make your on-the-job communications
more accurate and effective by trying to find a location that is more quiet or
a less noisy time of the day to talk.
It is believed by many that the biggest single communication problem is
the lack of ability to effectively listen. Most people seem to assume that
what they understood to be the message is what the speaker intended.
Frequently the two are not the same.
A word or a facial expression can change the meaning of a message.
Likewise, a previous experience by the listener can interpret a conversation
differently from what was intended. Another common problem arises when
the listener starts planning a response to what is being said instead of
actively listening. As a result, the listener does not hear the entire message.
As the sender, asking for feedback from the listener is the best way to
insure that the intended meaning of your idea or message was clear.
Misunderstandings are caused by the basic differences in people and
their communication styles. The earliest recorded effort to understand
these differences was developed when astrologers defined the twelve
astrological signs or types of people according to the four elements of
earth, air, fire and water. It is believed that people actually fall into types; in
other words, that their behavior is definable and reasonably predictable.
The value in understanding the basic personality types is that it can help
you predict behavior and better understand your fellow workers, supervisors,
family members, and friends.
Understanding these basic personality types can make a positive difference
on the job. Recognizing and understanding how people act can make
"running" a job easier, can make meeting deadlines more likely, and can
improve morale as well as productivity and profits.
As you read this topic, you may identify yourself or others with several
behaviors from each grouping. We can all find traces or even large doses
of each personality type in our make up and behavior. Today there are
more than a dozen different models of personality groupings. For our
example, we will call the four groupings Movers, Opposers, Followers, and
A mover is the one person in the work group who will usually initiate whatever
action is needed. The mover will also try to determine where you're heading
and will suggest and develop ideas for how to get there.
Movers are usually called "natural leaders." A mover's value on the job is
obvious. Having good ideas and the energy to back them up is a most
useful and constructive trait.
Movers, in general, enjoy power and enjoy being in charge, however, they
also have a strong need for approval and for others to agree with them.
They are also frequently un-accepting of other people's ideas. Mover's
generally see their own ideas as the only and best way of accomplishing a
task or settling an issue.
The opposer generally pushes against whatever is being discussed or
considered. The opposer creates a challenge by blocking the direction or
intended destination of any idea. Opposers get their attention and sense
of importance by taking a contrary position.
In a group, opposers can serve a useful purpose. Foremen and other leaders
can use an opposer to test ideas or scrutinize plans. By redirecting the
opposer's negative viewpoint, their ideas may be used to stimulate further
thought or discussion which could result in improving the original suggestion.
The follower is the person in the group who generally "goes along."
Followers will support someone or someone else's idea, however, they
most likely will not initiate ideas of their own. Followers are not uncreative
but may have a greater need to play it safe, to keep a lower profile, or to
wait until they see the general opinion of the group as a whole before they
take a stand. Followers are very good implementers once they commit
themselves to an idea. Followers have their own level of power in any
group. By being supportive, the follower empowers others to take whatever
action is necessary.
The bystander is quite different from the follower. While the follower agrees
with ideas and viewpoints that they personally relate to, the bystander stays
out of direct action altogether. The bystander makes no alliances with any
of the other three personality types. Bystanders observe and keep opinions
to themselves. This may create a level of uneasiness on the job because
no one really knows what the bystander is thinking.
w hether you are a foreman or a co-worker, learning how to adapt your
skills to each of the four personality types will improve your ability to
communicate your ideas and feelings.
COMMUNICATING WITH PERSONALITY TYPES
Here are some tips that will help you communicate with the four personality
As foreman, supervising a "mover" type personality may seem like a challenge.
The foreman must be able to anticipate the mover and create a situation
where they can contribute without dominating the work situation.
Often foremen, themselves, are mover personalities and must be aware of
their own tendency to "take over" to the exclusion of all other ideas.
If you know a co-worker has an "opposer" type of personality you can use it to
your advantage. People have a tendency to want to ignore or put down
objections from an opposer when, in fact, they actually serve a useful purpose.
As previously stated, an opposer's negative viewpoints may actually be very
insightful if looked at in a positive manner. When this personality type is used
effectively, an opposer's comments can be constructive and useful to the work
effort instead of simply an opposition.
Foremen should also pay particular attention to their own need to oppose
when in a leadership role. Constantly playing the devil's advocate, finding
fault and critiquing the ideas of others can, often, be perceived as negative
In general, the foreman should allow the follower to find their own level and
not put them on the spot too early. Followers are very good implementers
once they commit to an idea. The smart foreman uses this to their
As a foreman or leader, it is important to know that bystanders may not
want to be bystanders. Some people become bystanders because they
are not given encouragement, confidence, or training to try any other role.
One good way of dealing with a bystander is to try giving that person a
specific role or job instead of waiting for them to volunteer or asking them
for some type of commitment.
Throughout our educational process we have been taught how to put
our thoughts and feelings into words. Unfortunately, very little of our
educational experience has been devoted to improving our ability to receive
messages. Listening is far more than merely hearing.
Receiving is about the message (both the words and the intent) being
transmitted accurately from the sender to the receiver. Receiving is about
asking questions and providing feedback to the sender so that the sender
knows that the message has been accurately transmitted.
Effective listening is hard work. To turn off our personal "self-talk" about
how we feel, what we think, what we want, and who we are is difficult. It takes
a conscious effort to listen to another personÕs ideas and viewpoints.
Actively listening to another person increases their feeling of trust and
cooperation. On the job, this generally means a reduction in turnover,
more of a commitment to company goals, higher profits and productivity
due to fewer misunderstandings, improved morale, and an improved sense
of team work.
THE FOUR LEVELS OF LISTENING
Like personality types, listeners can also be thought of in four general
categories; the non-listener, the marginal listener, the evaluative listener,
and the active listener. As with personality types, these categories,
depending on the situation or circumstance, may overlap.
The non-listener, generally, makes no effort to hear what is being said or
will pretend to listen while thinking of something else. You can recognize
the non-listener by the blank stare and possibly nervous mannerisms and
gestures. Frequently the non-listener wants to do all (or most) of the
speaking. The non-listener constantly interrupts and has to have the last
word. The non-listener is perceived as insensitive and irritating.
The marginal listener is a superficial listener. Generally this listener is too
busy preparing a reply to what is being said to really pay attention to the
meaning or intent of the message. The marginal listener is easily distracted
by environmental noises, movements, or his own train of thought. It is
common for many marginal listeners to selectively look for outside
disturbances to use as an excuse for not paying attention to the
The main problem with marginal listening is that there is enormous potential
for misunderstanding since the listener is only superficially concentrating
on the message.
With a non-listener, the speaker can pick up on fairly obvious clues that the
listener is not listening. With the marginal listener, however, the speaker
may think that they have the attention of the listener but, in fact, the listener
is not paying attention at all.
The evaluative listener actively tries to hear what the speaker is saying but
doesn't make an effort to understand the speaker's intent. The evaluative
listener tends to be logical and unemotional. The evaluative listener
evaluates the message strictly on the basis of the words delivered, totally
disregarding the vocal tone, body language and facial expressions. This
listener is accomplished at deciphering the words, statistics, and facts of
the message but lacks the sensitivity to "read" the rest of the message.
In many cases the evaluative listener believes that they understand the
speaker and yet the speaker does not feel understood.
Active listening is the most comprehensive and the most powerful level of
listening. This is also the most demanding because it requires the deepest
level of concentration and attention.
The active listener does not judge the speaker's message but instead focuses
on understanding the speaker's point of view. The active listener focuses
attention on understanding the thoughts and feelings of the other person
as well as the spoken word. Active listening involves suspending our own
thoughts and feelings in order to give attention solely to the message and
the intent of the speaker.
Active listening also requires that the listener send verbal and nonverbal
feedback to the speaker indicating that what is being said is really being
1 . What three factors are involved in verbal communication?
2. What is the basis of verbal communication?
3. What are the basic elements to the communication process?
4. Name three examples of "feedback."
5. To what level of understanding should messages be based?
6. Who has the responsibility for determining whether communication has
7. What causes misunderstandings?
8. What are the four basic personality types?
9. Which personality type generally "goes along?"
10. What is the "power" of the "follower?"
11. What are the four levels of listening?
Ineffective listening is one of the most frequent causes of
miscommunication. The results of ineffective listening include lower
worker productivity, missed sales, unhappy customers, and an increased
margin of costs and lost profits.
Poor listening is recognized as being one of the primary contributors to
divorce and the inability of a parent and child to openly communicate.
We all know how it feels to be talking to a poor listener. The listener listens
only to the beginning of the message and then their mind goes to work
imagining where you are going with your idea and how they feel about it.
Often the listener interrupts to give their thoughts before the speaker is
even finished. The result of this non-communication is that vital information
is lost and issues are not explored properly.
There are some basic reasons for ineffective listening. If we are aware of
them, they can be avoided and we can improve our listening skills.
The difference between speech speed and listening speed creates a
listening gap. For example, the average person speaks at about 135-1 75
words a minute while the average person can listen to 400-500 words a
For poor listeners, the difference between listening speed and speaking
speed is time spent jumping to conclusions, daydreaming, planning a reply
or mentally arguing with the speaker instead of evaluating body language
and really listening to what is being said.
We do more listening than speaking, reading, or writing, yet we receive
almost no formal training in listening. Many people assume that they are
good listeners when, in truth, few people really are. The normal, untrained
listener is likely to understand and retain only about 50 percent of a
conversation. This 50 percent retention rate drops to an even less
impressive 25 percent after 48 hours.
Words can mean instant understanding if they are used well and are within
the listener's vocabulary. If we use words or phrases not generally
understood, our messages will not be received as we intended. Again, the
message should be based on the listener's level of understanding.
TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE LISTENING
Practicing the following suggestions deliberately and actively will greatly
improve your communication skills both as a listener and as a sender:
Remember that your feelings about the person to whom you are talking
with, or listening to, have a great influence on your ability to communicate
effectively with that person. The value you place on the message itself will
also influence what you hear or what you say.
Remember that good listening is active, not passive. This means that you
must focus your attention on the speaker and decide to listen. By focusing,
you will also eliminate all noises and distractions allowing the message to
be received clearly.
Remember, be alert, and allow sufficient time for the other person to share
their point of view.
Body language will show the speaker that you are interested in what is being
said with a nod of the head, a smile, leaning forward with interest, or using
appropriate facial expressions. All of these gestures tell the speaker that you
are paying attention and are interested in their message.
By structuring or organizing the information as you receive it, you will improve
your retention and understanding of the message.
Suspend your personal judgments about what is being said until you
have heard the whole idea. Try to listen wholeheartedly from the
speaker's point of view and not your own.
Wait until the speaker has finished before commenting. As you listen try to
figure out the relevant points and what the conclusion will be, but wait for
that conclusion before you speak.
When appropriate, give verbal responses to let the speaker know that you
are following their train of thought. Clarifying points with questions may be
necessary but do not sidetrack the speaker or their point. Restating the
point to make sure it was received accurately lets the speaker know that
the message was understood and that you are interested in what is being
Think before responding. Responding impulsively can disrupt
communications. When its your turn to reply to what was said, hook into
what was just said as a point of reference for your statement. This not only
tells everyone you were listening but is a sign of respect to the previous
To keep the conversation positive and productive, try to avoid the following:
Try not to interpret the speaker's words or feelings. You cannot be
certain how they feel. All you can do is tell them what you think they
have told you.
Try not to indicate disapproval. Obviously, this will hamper normal
conversation and lead to disputes or arguments.
Avoid belittling, making fun of the speaker, or arguing. Nothing is
gained by ridicule or unnecessary conflict.
There is a real difference between a healthy disagreement and an
emotionally charged, negative conflict. It is natural for people to have
disagreements about how things should be done. A healthy disagreement
can spark new ideas and lead to better solutions or plans of action. When
the differences are combined with too much emotion, however, the results
can be damaging and extremely unproductive.
Occasionally you will have to deal with emotional conflicts on the job. Your
ability to resolve these situations in a positive way is important for yourself,
other workers and your employer.
Dealing With Emotional Situations
Dealing with highly charged comments or messages in a thoughtful
manner is difficult for most of us. With a little practice, however, an
emotional situation or conflict can be de-fused.
It's important for a good listener to recognize an emotional reaction from
the beginning. An increased heartbeat, increased respiration, or a facial
flush may all be signs that someone is getting upset.
When an emotional reaction begins, there is an almost irresistible urge to
interrupt and argue with the speaker. Instead of interrupting, you should
allow the speaker to finish talking before making a reply or a comment.
Regardless of how provocative the message is, you must concentrate on
understanding the point that the speaker is trying to make. If you continually
interrupt, you most likely will lose your train of thought and objectivity.
Here are several strategies that can be used to effectively resolve an
emotional conflict. The situation will determine which method should be
Avoidance is an instinctive response to conflict. You can recognize avoidance
when someone changes the subject, tries to redefine a conflict so that it no
longer seems to exist, abruptly leaves the scene of the conflict or mentally
tunes out. By avoiding the problem neither party is labelled a winner or a
loser. Avoidance, however, rarely works because it does nothing to resolve
Accommodation occurs when someone "gives in" without actually working
through the conflict itself. Accommodation provides a quick, but frequently
temporary, solution because the base issues are left unresolved. Frequently,
the power of the conflicting parties influences the outcome more than the
legitimacy of the complaint or the wisdom of the solution. For example, a
supervisor wants an employee to do something a new way. The employee
feels that it is fine the way it is being done, but agrees anyway. The employee
has accommodated the supervisor but there is no real resolution. There is
a good possibility that the problem will eventually resurface.
Domination is a win-lose method that involves a struggle for power and
domination over someone else. The most powerful person, in some cases
the supervisor or foreman, will determine the final solution. In some cases
this strategy can be beneficial. It can resolve a conflict quickly and can be
effective when all parties recognize and accept the power relationship.
Unfortunately, this method can create resentment if it is overused since
the final outcome does not take other people's thoughts and feelings into
The domination strategy, like the other strategies mentioned, may be a
temporary "fix" since it does not treat the real source of the conflict.
Negotiation is when both sides state their positions and try to reach an
acceptable compromise. Most negotiation situations create a situation where
everyone partially wins and partially loses. Depending upon the specific
situation, this can either be positive or lead to a situation where no one is
Collaboration involves a face to face confrontation with the involved parties to
work through the conflict cooperatively. This strategy relies on creative
problem solving to identify a solution that will meet the needs of everyone
involved. Collaboration takes more time and effort but it addresses the
underlying issues of the situation or conflict. As a result, collaboration is
generally the most long lasting and productive strategy for resolving conflict.
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY RESOLVE CONFLICT
There are four basic behaviors that will help you successfully resolve
any conflict. By using these behaviors you can turn a negative conflict
into a positive disagreement:
When dealing with any conflict, always state your feelings and thoughts
openly, directly and honestly. Don't quote other people's negative
statements about the person or situation. Talk about how you feel and
about what you want while focusing on current specifics and problems.
Try to understand what the other person is feeling and try to see the situation
from their point of view. Demonstrate your understanding with comments
such as "I appreciate how you feel," or "I can understand your getting that
impression" expressed in a sincere manner.
Try to use the conflict as a way to better understand the entire situation
and as a means of finding a better solution.
Treat the person and their ideas with respect. Give the person the necessary
time to completely express their ideas.
THE "DO NOTS" OF EMOTIONAL CONFLICT
Sometimes it's not enough to know what we should do, we also need
to be aware of what we should not do when dealing with an emotional
situation or conflict. The following approaches to conflict should be avoided
since they will generally cause more problems in a conflict situation:
We do not always recognize just how seriously another person may have
taken a comment or a particular action. Often we make light of these
situations by using humor or sarcasm. The end result is that the person
feels unvalued and belittled. When someone brings a problem to your
attention, the best thing to do is to simply acknowledge it.
Because most problems are too complex to be totally caused soley by one
person or one situation, the focus should be on preventing future problems
rather than finding someone or something to blame.
When people have worked together for a length of time there are frequently
small grievances that are simply ignored. When a larger problem arises
there is a temptation to dredge up all these small grievances and include
them with the current problem. Although the person "unloading" these
issues may feel better, this seldom helps to resolve the larger conflict.
When working closely with people, over time we begin to understand their
sensitivities. "Pushing these buttons" or taking advantage of these
emotionally touchy areas in a disagreement can cause a conflict to escalate
making it more difficult to resolve.
Manipulation involves withholding approval or rewards or using personal
charm to get someone to do something regardless of that person's needs
Using force involves the "I don't care what you want, do it my way NOW,"
approach of conflict management. It may get an immediate action but it's
also demoralizing to the other person because it does not acknowledge
their worth or ideas.
I t is not pleasant but from time-to-time we all receive complaints or criticism.
It may come from your boss, a co-worker, or even a customer. As long
as the complaint is work related and not personal, you owe them the courtesy
If the criticism becomes personal, insulting or abusive the best course of
action is to terminate the conversation by walking away or delaying the
discussion until all parties can discuss the subject calmly.
When listening to a complaint, the following pointers may help:
Don't be defensive. Accept what is being said without making excuses.
Wait until the person is finished to give your side of the story. This
will not only allow you time to think but it shows that you take their
point of view seriously.
If there is some truth to what is being said, acknowledge it. This is
especially true for someone who reports to you so that they know that
they are free to complain if the situation warrants it.
Beware of subtle threats or intimidation. If you see them, point them
out as a way of saying that they won't be tolerated.
Try to come to a resolution that you both can agree with. Even if a problem
hasn't been solved, you can at least agree on the points that need work.
Apologize if you feel it is appropriate.
Regardless of your personal attitudes concerning various sexual
harassment situations, one thing is certain - sexual harassment in the
workplace is against the law. Employees are entitled by law to a work
environment that is not sexually offensive.
Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal
Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, prohibits discrimination on the basis
of sex in all terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) amended its Guidelines on
Discrimination Because of Sex to define harassing conduct and to reaffirm
that sexual harassment is an unlawful employment practice.
It is not unusual for courts to impose stiff penalties on employers and
individuals for sexual harassment. Employers and supervisors can no longer
ignore the seriousness of sexual harassment in the work place.
Sexual harassment is defined by the EEOC as unwelcome sexual advances,
requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual
nature when it takes place under any of the following circumstances:
Generally speaking, a sexual harassment situation should include the
following to constitute a chargeable action:
Mere physical contact is not sexual harassment. Physical contact done in
a sexually suggestive way, however, in an atmosphere of sexual innuendo
may be a different matter.
Using "foul" language does not necessarily constitute a sexual harassment
situation. If the language is not of a sexual nature and is not directed to or
about a specific person, it may not be interpreted as sexual harassment.
Many incidents are subject to the EEOC policy but many others are not.
There's a difference between one employee being attracted to another
and showing it in some way and an employee who forces hislher attentions
repeatedly on an unwilling victim. Personal relationships that do not have
a discriminatory employment effect do not generally fall under the EEOC
Common sense should play a factor in determining sexual harassment.
Whether an activity establishes a personal relationship or has a
discriminatory effect on employment is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Conduct that may be sexual harassment in one setting may not be in
The following general situations define when an employer may be potentially
liable for an act of sexual harassment:
Prevention is the best tool for eliminating sexual harassment in the work
place. The employer must take all necessary steps to protect their
employees from sexual harassment. The following points will help achieve
a no-harassment environment:
The foundation of any no-harassment plan is a firm policy against
harassment for any reason. The policy must make it clear that the entire
company, from top level management on down, condemns sexual
harassment. The policy must be publicized by posting notices, publishing
bulletins, or stating the policy to all employees. Sexual harassment
awareness should be part of every employee's training, especially
supervisory and management staff.
If any company policy is to be effective it must be supported by everyone
especially supervisors or foremen. Supervisors must demonstrate by their
own actions that they support and enforce the no-harassment policy. They
must be alert to possible incidents of harassment and they must take firm
action should a problem become evident.
DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE
Making judgments about people because of race, sex, age, handicaps,
nationality or ethnic groups will only lead to trouble. Individuals differ
in mechanical skills, communication skills, speed and quality of work, as
well as how well they work in various situations. These differences can
have a positive effect on-the-job. Every person should be given a fair
opportunity for employment.