April 6, 2009

Sexual behavior at work hurts morale

Sexual behavior at work, such as a raunchy joke, may be fun for some but it hurts morale for all, Canadian researchers suggest.

Jennifer Berdahl of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and Karl Aquino University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Management looked at the effect of sexual behavior in the workplace -- such as sexual jokes, innuendo, discussions of sexual matters or flirtation. The researchers also investigated whether men and women got anything positive out of the behavior, such as enjoyment and social bonding.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, finds some employees enjoyed sexual behavior in the workplace -- 25 percent of those exposed to it found it fun and flattering -- while half were neutral.

However, the study also finds that even employees who enjoyed the sexual behavior tended to withdraw from work, felt less valued and reported depressive symptoms more often than employees who experienced little to no sexual behavior at the office. The results were found among both women and men, working in manufacturing, social service and university jobs.

We approached the study with an open mind. We thought, 'Maybe these behaviors are a positive thing for employees who enjoy them,' Berdahl says in a statement. We found that they weren't.