Humour at the Workplace
An increasing body of research points out that humor has considerable positive effects on the workplace environment (Loyalka). Humor has been shown to relieve stress leading to healthier and happier employees which in turn is manifested through increased productivity. However, as is the case with any aspect of the workplace and life for that matter, there is always need for moderation. There is a very fine line between being merely funny and offensive. In the case of Jim, it is evident that his apparent transitioning from male to female is bound to attract some form of satire which in this case Dan and Jacob are being plainly disrespectful.
However, it would also not be fair to judge the two harshly given that they are not aware of the emotional turmoil Jim might be facing owing to his sexual orientation. As a result, the best action to take in such an instance would be to intervene and ask the two since the humor "field" was not even enough. For humor to be effective in the workplace, both sides need to be involved which is certainly not the case. It is, therefore, important that as organizations incorporate humor as part of their policies, they should endeavor to ensure that the right balance is achieved so as to eliminate the possibility of humor degenerating into a cause for emotional turmoil for the target employee.
The Power of Communication
Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the debacle between Dan and Jacob on one hand and Jim on the other is communication. Communication is central to understanding how one is perceived. It would be important to note that the way an individual engages in communication is a function of socialization with respect to gender. Naturally, boys tend to be socialized in a manner that encourages them to assert authority and control over others. As a result, they tend to be bossy, which is certainly the case for Jacob and Dan, who despite viewing their actions towards Jim as pure humor are unwittingly trying to assert their authority over Jim. In the context of socialization for boys, gaining the upper hand in language is akin to rising through the ranks of social status. Tannen asserts that research has indicated that it is this same attitude that boys carry into their manhood as manifested in the behavior of Jacob and Dan (3).
On the other hand, given the sexual orientation issues that Jim is facing, there is a very high likelihood that he was socialized as a girl in his childhood. Girls, as opposed to boys, do not seek to assert their authority over the other lest they are accused of being bossy. Instead, they tend to focus more on bringing out their similarities rather than their unique attributes. The office lounge debacle is, therefore, awkward for Jim. This is because his natural reaction as a person transitioning to femalehood would be to emphasize that he is not any different from the two. Ultimately, he cannot express himself accordingly. The nature of women, therefore, tends to be more apologetic rather than assertive or at least if they are assertive and confident, then the way that they express it does not certainly show it.
Furthermore, as a result of ritual opposition, the way men tend to deal with issues is different from women. To Jacob and Dan, they probably saw the altercation as no big deal and expected things to continue as normal with Jim. Men do not take ritual opposition literally. However, in this case, it is not the same for Jim who may not be able to respond in the same way as a contemporary male due to his underlying sexual orientation problem. Jim is, therefore, likely to judge their behavior based on a woman's nature rather than that of a man.
For a man's case, verbal opposition is paramount is one is to gain face among his peers. However, women do not perform well when such forms of interaction are required as illustrated by Jim's behavior (Tannen, 7). In the confrontation between Jacob and Dan versus Jim, it may not have the case that Jim did not harbor an opinion on the matter. It may have been due to the inherent nature of a man to behave in such a manner that his behavior and presence are more likely recognized compared to a woman. In light of the above, it would be prudent to encourage Jim to speak up against the two to express his perspective. Such a reaction would enable Jim to acquire more respect and status from the two.
Ultimately, the actions of Dan and Jacob towards Jim illustrate a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ). It is especially the case given that over the years, it has become evident that emotional intelligence plays a bigger role in productivity when compared to intellectual skills. Regarding this case, perhaps the most important aspect of emotional intelligence is the perception emotions. It is this aspect of emotional intelligence that would have enabled the two to understand Jim's feelings at the time which certainly would have been positive. Over and above understanding his emotions, it would also be prudent that they know how to manage the emotions that they had stirred. It is, therefore, evident that the two lacked such skills. Basic training on the same would not only allow them to perceive Jim's emotions but also reason and comprehend them too. An understanding of Jim's emotions would have helped the two engage constructively with Jim rather than sarcastically.
In the end, such a formidable relationship would have a positive effect on the productivity of all those involved. Jacob and Dan would also benefit from the training since apart from imparting them with EQ skills; they would also gain in their technical skills as there have been found to be a high co-relation between the two.
Civility at the Workplace
There is always a thin line between polite, regular exchanges between colleagues meant to excite humor and pure incivility. Looking at the behavior of Dan and Jacob through the prism of civility, their actions were purely rude. Despite their backbiting not being openly rude, it smacked of a subtle rudeness which researchers have proved to be more harmful when compared to situations involving outright rudeness (Clay, 1). Psychologists contend that such behavior of meting out derogatory words on another while producing an instant sense of self-satisfaction has a long-term adverse effect on the individual. This is especially the case given that this behavior tends to be permanently reinforcing.
Consequently, Jacob's and Dan's actions may not only have the effect of hurting Jim but also their productivity. There have been studies that show a positive co-relation between persons with such behavior and poor anger management. To worsen the situation, the two-judge Jim even though they lack a perspective of his apparent situation of transitioning from male to female. Such deviant behavior has also been shown to have adverse consequences on the targeted person. For the case of Jim, it may be manifested through absenteeism or low self-esteem. It would, therefore, be prudent to encourage the two to seek intervention. Such interventions which should be instituted in the workplace would entail identifying issues of concern at the workplace and openly discussing them.
Cultural intelligence is perhaps another significant aspect necessary if an employee is to be all rounded. Cultural intelligence involves one appreciating the different cultures that exist within their space (Earley and Mosakowski, 8). It would, therefore, be expected that the two would have at least anticipated such a scenario of the various sexual orientations and appreciate that they do exist. Unfortunately, the two appear oblivious to this fact. Learning the importance of cultural intelligence would enable the two work in any environment irrespective of the varying cultures. It is especially the case in today's multicultural world.
Ultimately, irrespective of the measure one uses to judge the actions of Dan and Jacob, it is evident that the two lacked decorum, and their actions were injurious to Jim. It is especially the case given that they did not have an understanding the problem Jim faced regarding his gender transition. It is critical that people take the time to appreciate the varying factors that may affect an individual before directing derogatory remarks against him or her.
Earley, P.C. and Mosakowski, E. Cultural intelligence. Harvard Business Review, 82, 10, 139
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Loyalka, Dammon, M. Laughing your way to success. Fastcompany.com [Dec 19, 2007]
Retrieved Apr 19, 2016 from http://www.fastcompany.com/articles/2006/01/laugh.html
Tannen, Deborah. The power of talk. Harvard Business Review, 955190 (1995). Print