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Analysis of Workplace Behaviour: Sociology

Essay Topic:

Many issues in the line of employment relations are contentious and most likely to provoke strong opinions and debate.Through the years, the concept of workplace behaviour has become increasingly important as the Australian workplace is constantly changing and evolving.However the issues of equal employment initiatives, still remains a common problem in the work environment.

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One of the most controversial issues occurring in today’s society is gender discrimination.

Women are becoming very significant in the workplace, as more and more women are participating and part taking in to all types of work. Yet, regardless of these factors, women, especially working mothers, have no place in the workforce. In recent Australian papers, the topic of pregnancy discrimination has spiralled as Virgin Blue Airlines, an industry leader in supporting mothers, is involved in a discrimination case against two of their female employees (The Sydney Morning herald, 2011).

The case involves the issue of discrimination and harassment, as both of the workers were being treated unfairly due to the fact they were pregnant. Gender discrimination can be related to Emile Durkheim’s idea that societies are built on ‘social facts’, he suggested that these ‘social facts’ are aspects of social life that shape our actions as individuals, and influence the way we think, feel and act (Clegg and Dunkerley, pp. 23). It is a human right, not a privilege, for a woman to work while she is pregnant.

Our society is developed around a social structure that creates barriers for women that continues to disadvantage them in the workforce. In this situation, the needs of men are treated as the norm and women are ignored (Moyle, 2002). As such, men are seen as in a position of power, where women are limited by their choices yet we accept this framework as the logical truth. “More than half of the airline’s workforce was female …We are one of the only companies in Australia with 50 per cent female representation in our executive team” (The Herald Sun, 2011).

Even though there is an increasing amount of women participating in the workforce, they are not treated with the same benefits and respect as males. In 2001, the Human Rights Commission (2002) received 85% of complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act, 30 % of that were on the base of pregnancy discrimination. Increasing women part taking in the workforce has been considered by many, as an opportunity of women’s liberation, as well as a sign of breaking down the barriers of inequality. However this mpression of liberation is limited. The assumption that women can have it all is slowing leaning to a yes but due to the current workplace and societal attitudes, women are limited to the opportunities offered unlike men. Women are restricted by the change in their workforce behaviour and the unsuccessful attempts to change the perspective of gender roles at home (Moyle, 2002). Equality cannot be reached while women are still limited, restricted and disadvantaged in the labour market just because they can bear children.

In times of pregnancy, there are still various employers who believe that women are not efficient and do not work as productively, while pregnant. In a number of cases many pregnant women were either demoted or fired, and in some cases they were denied of training or further promotional opportunities (Moyle, 2002). For instance, “Both of the women positions were made redundant as they confirmed they were pregnant or returning from maternity leave, despite the fact that the model employer was advertising and recruiting for the same position” (The Sydney Morning herald, 2011).

The perception of the functionalist theory connects to Durkheim’s ideas of ‘social facts’, it views society as a system of interrelated parts that works together in order to maintains stability and the survival of humanity (Krieken et al. 2006, pp. 3). The approach believes, gender differences contribute to preserving the social stability of society, that women and men should perform tasks that are expected for them (Giddens et al. 2009, p. 306).

Because of this people are categorize into groups based on gender, race, education or class. The affects of taking on a particular status in society requires both positive and negative behaviours. Each group is accompanied by a number of norms which define how people are perceived and expected to act (Krieken et al. 2006, pp. 3). In organizational behaviour theory, perception is defined as the way in which people perceive, view, and understand others and the surroundings around them (Patil, S, 2008, pp. 3).

Perception severely impacts on the attitudes employees have of others and themselves, as well as the decisions they make within an organization (Patil, S, 2008, pp. 3). An example of this is, according to The Sydney Morning herald (2011) an employee of Virgin Blue suggested that “All females should be on contracts so that when they get pregnant it is easy for the company to get rid of them. ” This perception reinforces the message that women are not welcome in the workplace and they don’t belong, indicating that a woman only suitable place is at home.

Women, who are able to have children, should view pregnancy as a privilege, being able to give birth, able to give life, rather than something they are penalised for and discriminated against. The greatest concern is the amount of women accepting this sort of discrimination. It has been reported that there is a trend over the past years of more women working and fewer women choosing to have a family or limiting the number of children they have, because of the conditions of the workforce (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1999 pp. 1). It appears that they allow this sort of inequality because they believe discrimination is a part of life, that pregnancy is a personal choice. This clearly indicates that the perception of society and social impact, highly affects the way women view the subject. We cannot ignore the fact that workplace discrimination and harassment in relation to pregnancy still remains a true concern for many women in our society.

Regardless of status, industry, or level of education, or in the characteristics of age, race or religion, for many women they will always be placed at a disadvantage because of the social facts and perceptions of society (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1999, pp. 7). However, attitudes towards the ‘working women’ are gradually changing. The relationship between an employer and employee is one of mutual rights and obligation, as more and more employers are addressing and acknowledging the importance of the inequality issue, we step in to an economy of transition.

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