The current case tells a story of Sema, a Turkish accounts manager at the British-Dutch financial services consultancy, that is aggrieved by the imprudent and joking style that is used by her new executive vice president for special projects. The woman considered complaining regarding insensitive comments, but it could disrupt accomplishments of her team’s project. Recently, Sema has relocated from the Ankara Office to the central command in Amsterdam. The woman’s new supervisor, Jack, has also moved from Manchester, where he was a sales VP. Man’s insensitive comments concern Sema’s short stature; his imprudent and joking style has become progressively hostile in the recent six months. Nevertheless, Jack remunerates all members’ singular endeavors, appreciates, and duly recognizes the work and achievements of each employee. The current paper identifies the key problem of the case study at hand, demonstrates possible solutions and strategies for solving the issue, and provides recommendations.
The current situational case study concerns three principle issues. The first one is associated with the problem of different social backgrounds (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011). In such a manner, Sema is known to originate from Turkey and have relocated to the Netherlands with primarily Dutch associates. On the other hand, Jack, her supervisor, has a Manchester background, which is characterized by the loud and freewheeling personality that solidly influences the manner, in which he conducts all operations. Therefore, in terms of the project teams at multinational companies, a cross-cultural conflict appears to be a constantly-occurring problem (Long & Christian, 2015). Because of her Turkish background, Sema is not used to any type of office amazedness; hence, she is insulted and hurt by such instances. Moreover, her coworkers do not understand that their behavior might be regarded as insolent and hostile. The second one is associated with authority hierarchical arrangements that concern badgering and segregation in the case the proposed working setting is not obviously implemented in the conventional routine employment life (England, 2015). In fact, the strategies mentioned above appear to be merely affluent if all employees apply them. The third issue considers the fact that multinational companies do not strive to create a working setting, in which all employees are “treated with dignity, courtesy, and respect” (Plester, 2016, p. 18). Such jokes might merely stand for a wrong word choice that has no second meaning (Martin, 2007). Nevertheless, it is more often that poking and minor jokes are an attempt to hide an unconscious desire to humiliate or suppress a colleague or the entire personnel. Therefore, in either case, unserious insulting tricks might rapidly turn into risky and hazardous actions at the workplace (Fehr & Gelfand, 2012). Consequently, a previously safe workplace would turn into the unfriendly, abusive, and hostile environment to any sensible individual (Aleassa & Megdadi, 2014). The current case vividly demonstrates that despite the fact that the Dutch can speak openly about things that are not discussed in Turkey, they comment on own or other’s people deficiencies with ease, as well. In this instance, such jokes make people with different cultural feel humiliated, deficient, and offended (Christian, Christian, Garza, & Ellis, 2012). The case asserts that Sema has just relocated from Turkey to the Netherlands and requires some time to get used to a different environment. Her supervisor’s remarks regarding her tallness do not facilitate the process of accustoming to a foreign culture. Moreover, Sema does not know hot to handle the issue, as such behavior seems to be normal, as all other team members giggle about Jack’s jokes. The problem analysis reveals that the woman should have provided her supervisor with accurate information concerning instances when he actually pushed things too far and, instead of supporting his subordinate, improved his humiliating joke ‘dot’ to the phrase ‘Big Dot.’ In this case, a three-strike standard seems to be the best choice for dealing with the situation. It suggests providing a guilty party with three chances to change own behavior and progressing to lodging a complaint to HRM in the case nothing helps.
The analysis of the problems demonstrates that Sema has to try to explain to her supervisor that she feels uncomfortable when he makes jokes about her physical appearance. Because of the supervisor’s background and current working and cultural circumstances, the man seems to be unable to understand that any humiliating jokes are inappropriate in the working environment, especially towards a subordinate representative (Crossley, 2009). Moreover, he is not aware of the existing problem as her “Big Dot” rejoinder might have made the woman seem happy to play along. Due to the fact that the situation has lasted for six months, it is crucial to inform the HRM about the situation, because of the continuation of the supervisor’s insulting jokes, which are combined with her team’s approving reactions. It might be beneficial to make representatives more delicate concerning the issue of provocation (Bulutlar & Unler, 2009). Another employee in Sema’s position might oppose the presented problem either by dealing directly with the issue and asking individual to stop the hostile behavior or with the help of formal tools and mechanisms (Bulutlar & Unler, 2009). As Sema feels extremely uncomfortable regarding the possibility to discuss the problem with Jack directly, the second option appears to be more accurate (Chan & Arvey, 2011).
Therefore, it might be appropriate to communicate the problem to Gerda or Tim or both and outline own worries matter-of-factly with supporting her point of view with clear evidence, for example, the certificate. Despite the fact that Sema has failed to report about Jack’s inappropriate conduct during her first six working months, it does not mean that she has encouraged or tolerated it. It is important to understand that the woman acted according to the desire to fit into her work team. Consequently, she felt intimidated and afraid about the fact that any complaints might be met with recrimination. The situation demonstrates that working circumstances are not appropriately controlled and regulated in the company at hand, as employees are not capable of observing situations from different individual and cultural perspectives. In other words, they lack a general idea of why specific types of humor are inappropriate at the workplace (Fehr & Gelfand, 2012). The solution that utilizes a formal mechanism can help in developing the diversity awareness and sensitivity by enhancing an understanding of how words might affect people (Franzini, 2012).
Finally, due to the fact that Sema is afraid that any complaint might undermine her team’s accomplishment, it might be more appropriate to wait for the project completion and discuss the issue with Gerda or Tim afterward. Any complaints during the working process of the project might make the woman feel even more uncomfortable by disrupting her successful performance. This option seems to be the best as it can help with focusing on altering the company’s culture instead of changing the overall dynamics of a successful team (Long & Christian, 2015). Moreover, this solution will provide Sema with a possibility to provide any suggestions regarding the necessary changes and eliminate any negative effects on her direct working communication. Moreover, the punishment for one employee cannot bring any sufficient changes, especially when the whole company’s personnel makes nasty comments and jokes or tolerates and supports someone creating them. The current solution will help change the situation from the top to down; consequently, the abusive speech will not be tolerated at any level, and no other employees will ever appear in Sema’s situation (Plester, 2016). This solution will allow HRM to take a close look at the formal and informal company’s culture and provide a chance to reconsider any standards and norms, which might actually stimulate possibly harassing or discriminatory behavior (Crossley, 2009). The second solution asserts that it might be beneficial to inform HRM immediately in order to punish one person that is involved in the situation. Nevertheless, this strategy is more relevant in the case when the problem is restricted to a few employees as a manager might talk to each one on an individual basis (Aleassa & Megdadi, 2014). In fact, it might backfire as singling out people might make them become defensive and elevate inner hostilities (Plester, 2016). It is more important to ensure that the staff shares the same opinion regarding pertinent workplace humor (Plester, 2016). In this case, every employee will comprehend own responsibilities and rights; meanwhile, no one will be capable of claiming that they did not realize that their actions or words were harassment.
Plester (2016) states that humor at the workplace is a positive phenomenon. It helps in building morale and working connections. Nevertheless, it can also hurt, especially when it veers from being a bonding agent to an alienator. Many employees might have resisted altering the character of their humor due to the fact that they have never understood why certain jokes turn out to be a problem. Therefore, it is recommended to utilize a No Fear Act and the Reasonable Person Standard (Franzini, 2012). This strategy will help in defining whether the behavior that has taken place can be categorized as harassing one or not. Secondly, it is recommended that the company authorities ensure that their employees have a clear understanding of their role in eluding and reporting any provocation in regards to the working environment. Due to the fact that the company is multinational, it is imperative to prepare all employees to handle cultural differences together with discrepant structures of provocation, and use every effort to avoid any harassment (Long & Christian, 2015). Employees should understand that some types of humor are inappropriate and detrimental at the workplace. Moreover, one should note that it is not a simple matter to distinguish between damaging and facilitative forms of humor, or promote one type of humor and not another one. It is frequently complicated to understand where friendly teasing and playful banter end, and where ridicule and unwanted joking begin (Fehr & Gelfand, 2012). Taking into account the current cultural context of the company, it is recommended to preserve humor at the workplace, but the company has to do its utmost to change the overall organizational culture and power structure (Plester, 2016). Finally, it is also recommended to conduct sensitivity or diversity awareness training workshops. These training will assist employees in increasing understanding of how words might affect other employees, especially those with discrepant background and culture (England, 2015).
The main fallout might be associated with the fact that nothing will change. If Jack is allowed to call Sema a “Dot” in front of Harold van der Lined and get giggles of the whole team, Dirksen-Hall is not a place where all representatives are “dealt with nobility, affability, and appreciation.” Therefore, on the one hand, there might be no other reasonable person in the same or similar settings, who will indicate that Jack’s behavior appears to be intimidating, hostile, or abusive (Plester, 2016). Consequently, Sema will not be capable of proving that this conduct can be considered harassment. Therefore, the overall complaint might ruin Sema’s working relationships as the entire team tolerates the jokes and admires her reactive sense of humor, not being capable of understanding that it has been utilized to defend oneself and not for the humorous situation support (Chan & Arvey, 2011). On the other hand, the HRM might react to Sema’s complain appropriately and use every effort in order to change the company’s culture. This strategy might allow implementing zero-tolerance policies, which will change the working environment into more hostile instead of improving it (Crossley, 2009). It is important to understand that there will always be instances when someone will make an unfortunate statement, or will attempt to make light of something hurtful (Plester, 2016). In fact, it is more significant to watch for the jokes pattern, which appears to be rather vicious than funny. Moreover, it might stimulate working teams to oppose employees that would complain about inappropriate jokes (Aleassa & Megdadi, 2014). It is the main reason as to why it is crucial to provide employees with a clear method to report incidents anonymously, and to deal specifically with individuals, whose names appears the most frequently on the list (Crossley, 2009). In addition, the working culture change might undermine the team success by disrupting the existing relationships and causing the backfire. All team members might shift to a defensive position, which will result in the possible increase of internal team hostilities (Franzini, 2012). It is a case when Jack is probably unaware of the existing problem and does not understand that he offends somebody as the whole team, as well as the offended person, supports his jokes. Therefore, if Sema directly addresses HRM without discussing the problem with the offender, Jack might backfire in the future. It might happen as his overall attitude, except for jokes, is positive as he effectively acknowledges Sema’s achievements. Complaining without the previously mentioned three-strike standard might put her in a terrible light with her team and possibly with others in the organization (Plester, 2016). Therefore, if she does not try to deal with the issue on her own, she can be considered an indecisive coward. However, if she tries and fails, but continues to contend for her truth via HRM, she will stand out as a confident, strong, and result-oriented professional. Therefore, both Sema and HRM should not make hasty decisions. Sema, being a new employee, has to use every effort to gain credibility and repute in the company, instead of ruining her career and working relations. On the other hand, HRM should change the existing company culture; as the organization is multicultural, each employee should understand that respect for other cultures is essential for the overall success of the business (Plester, 2016).
The current paper vividly demonstrates that a cross-cultural conflict is a grave matter in terms of multinational companies. Respect for cultural differences in the working environment appears to be a wellspring of new thoughts and working contention. Despite the fact that humor helps to deal with stress, inappropriate jokes might be detrimental and result in anxiety. Multinational companies should develop appropriate organizational culture, which will support diversity, instead of humiliating people. In such a manner, employees should learn to observe situations from others’ perspectives, as it will help them in better understanding why some humor is merely inadequate at the workplace. It is the main reason as to why multinational companies should conduct diversity awareness or sensitivity training workshops, which can help in increasing awareness and comprehending how words might affect others.