Lest you thought all those lengthy sexual harassment policies and ethics training programs were finally paying off, Boston-based employee performance consultancy Novations Group has news for you. According to an annual national telephone survey of 612 employed Americans conducted in March for Novations by Media, Pa.-based International Communications Research, racial, ethnic slurs and other inappropriate comments made in the workplace failed to decline last year.
Following a pattern seen for the last three years, the most frequent offensive remarks were sexually related, with the incidence of improper sexual remarks rising by 4 percentage points, from 31 percent in 2004 to 35 percent last year.
Ridicule based on sexual orientation also shot up 4 points, from 20 percent in 2004 to 24 percent last year, Novations Group consultant Tom McKinnon reports.
Incidence of ethnic and racial slurs also hasn't improved, remaining consistent over the past four years. Ethnic remarks were overheard by 29 percent of employees in 2005, 28 percent in 2004 and 2003 and 29 percent in 2002. Racial slurs were overheard by 29 percent in 2005, 30 percent in 2004, 27 percent in 2003 and 29 percent in 2002. African-Americans were half as likely as whites to overhear racial comments, by 17 percent to 30 percent, and Westerners were more likely, by 36 percent to 24 percent, to overhear such remarks than Northeasterners.
And, if sex, ethnicity or race didn't make your employees feel uncomfortable, then they may have been ridiculed about their age. Age-related ridicule was noted by 22 percent of employees.
Ridicule based on sexual orientation, heard by 24 percent of employees, matched the finding for 2002, whereas it had declined in both 2003 and 2004 to 20 percent.
Employees with disabilities also weren't spared. Incidence of ridicule related to disability rose to 9 percent in 2005, up from 5 percent in 2004 and 3 percent in 2003. —M.W.
Have an opinion you'd like to share with Training readers? E-mail your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line.