Unit 5: Who Takes Out the Trash? Who Cares?

The store that I own with my husband is ninety three years old. My husband’s grandfather started the store in 1926 and it originated as an apparel store that sold fine clothing to gentlemen. The store’s main theme has generally remained unchanged but the store, naturally, has evolved with the times.  The store doubled in size in 2017 and we added a women’s boutique and so now, there are more women working in the store, which traditionally, but not intentionally, was comprised of a workforce of mainly male workers. We’ve had many women who worked in the store throughout the years who sold clothing to men, but historically, more males applied for employment as sales associates than women.

Today, we have twenty-five employees – about half are men and half are women. The store generates its share of recyclables and trash on a daily basis. There are always bags of trash and folded cardboard boxes in our back office/employee area that need to be taken out to the municipal trash containers up the street from the store. Leadership, myself and my husband, will  take the trash out ourselves or ask the male workers to take the trash out because we feel it’s more of a man’s job than to ask the ladies, who oftentimes wear dresses and high heels. Some male employees, usually the younger ones, complain that it is unfair and sexist to only ask the men to take out the trash.

We are a bit older, not Millennials, but Gen Xers, and believe that it is a man’s job to take out the trash. We believe that women are fully capable of taking out the trash and sometimes they do, but at their own volition. According to Hofstede & Hofstede (n.d.a), “Simply said, culture is how you were raised.  In action in social life, culture constitutes the unwritten rules of the social game.” When it comes to taking out the trash, leadership believes that a gentleman takes out the trash.

One of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions is “masculinity/femininity which is the tendency of a culture to have fixed gender roles” (PSU, 2019).  In the retail store, the influence of its rich history, roots, the age of the leaders and how we were raised, it feels wrong to ask the females to take out the trash. Interestingly, all other work related tasks are performed by both the male and female employees.  Trash duty is the only gender fixed role on which we, as leaders, have a preference. It is worth noting that as a group, the women in the store, are seemingly fine with leadership’s division of labor in respect to garbage duty. There is a level of cohesion among the women because most of them work in the same physical area of the store but when it comes to this particular job task, there is also groupthink at work (PSU, 2019). “Groupthink is a tendency for an overly cohesive group to avoid upsetting the status quo” and in this case, the women are seemingly fine to agree with leadership and generally refrain from taking out the trash (PSU, 2019). According to Northouse (2018, p. 295), “typically, followers comply with the directions and wishes of leaders—they defer to leaders’ power.”

The issue of the trash does somewhat affect the organizational climate.  “Leadership helps set the values and culture for the organization” (PSU, 2019).  While we cling to the belief that it’s a man’s job, maintaining that it is the right thing to do, and applying Victor & Cullen’s ethical criteria that our beliefs are morally reasoned with benevolence and principle, some male employees look at the mandate from an egoistic and individual perspective and sometimes behave in a passive aggressive manner when it comes to taking out the trash (PSU, 2019).  Some males who reluctantly take out the trash will do so, but use the walk outside to linger, make a call on their phone, surf the Internet or grab a drink. Leadership views this as a form of rebellion but usually doesn’t address the transgression so both parties are negatively affected by the general rule so it seems that leadership should make some changes. If the employee pool were largely comprised of Baby Boomers, there may not be any issues at all about the male trash duty. It is interesting to consider that “the ethical climate is actually created by everyone in the organization, not just the leadership” but certainly leadership plays a huge part and it rests solely on leadership’s shoulders to create and enforce rules and policies that are ethically-based and contribute to the greater good and maybe everyone needs to tow the line when it comes to taking out the trash (PSU, 2019).

 

References

Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G.J. (n.d.). What is culture? Links to an external site. Retrieved from http://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/definition-culture/

Northouse, P. G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and practice (8th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. [ISBN: 978-1506362311] pp. 293-333.

PSU. (2019). L11 Ethics and Small Groups [Lecture notes]. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l11-ethics-and-small-groups?module_item_id=25808526

PSU. (2019). L12 Multiculturalism. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l12-multiculturalism?module_item_id=25808538

PSU. (2019). L13 Ethical Climate. Retrieved from

https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l13-overview?module_item_id=25808544

3 Comments

  1. Adriana Vargas Smith April 22, 2019 at 2:17 AM #

    U05 Response

    Hi Lisa,

    What an interesting topic of discussion! I personally don’t mind taking out the trash at my job, and I can often be found walking in my heels to the dumpster behind the office building. That said, I have noticed that the men in the office will immediately stop what they are doing and offer to take the trash out so that I don’t have to. I always reject their offers because I see taking out the trash as an opportunity to leave the office to get fresh air (), but I know many of the other women in the office would be offended if they were asked to take it out. (Maybe it is a generational thing, as I am a Millennial and most of the other women in the office are not).

    Based on the information that you shared, it seems that your organization has a team interest ethical climate (Victor & Cullen, 1988). You and your husband are focused on benevolence and a local locus of analysis, where you are looking from the perspective of those directly involved/affected (Victor & Cullen, 1987). You explained that the younger men place a greater value on gender equality in all job duties, while some of the older employees have more traditional values. This dilemma reminds me lecture’s discussion of conflicts that may arise with clashing cultural values, in Lecture 12 (PSU, 2019). The lecture explains that a compromise between the two extremes may be the best solution (PSU, 2019). Perhaps, a different person can be responsible for taking out the trash each day. A schedule that lists this in advance would allow for women to dress accordingly for this job duty (i.e. wearing flats instead of heels). Or another compromise would be creating a job duty that only the women do. In my last office, the men would always take out the trash, but the women would brew the coffee every morning. It was an unspoken rule, but it balanced out the job responsibilities so that no one felt like they had more work to do than the others. This kind of compromise would not only be aligned with your organization’s ethical climate, but it would also help with overall work commitment, as it would reduce the amount of time that the younger men linger/waste time outside.

    Thank you for a very interesting and thought-provoking discussion!

    Adriana

    References
    PSU. (2019). PSY 833: Ethics and leadership. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919
    Victor, B., & Cullen, J. B. (1987). A theory and measure of ethical climate in organizations. Research in Corporate Social Performance and Policy, 9, 51-71.
    Victor, B., & Cullen, J. B. (1988). The organizational bases of ethical work climates. Administrative Science Quarterly, 33, 101-125.

  2. Joshua B Gray April 14, 2019 at 5:44 PM #

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for sharing this post about the store that you and your husband own and lead together. I also appreciate your open and honest discussion of the trash duty situation. Before you even brought it up, I was immediately thinking of the masculinity/femininity discussion from Lesson 12. As you made clear, some cultures tend to have more fixed gender roles, with females unfortunately having the tendency to be offered more limited options than males (PSU, 2019). According to Hofstede & Hofstede (n.d.) and their Femininity-Masculinity World Map, the United States is a highly masculine culture. I am glad that you are examining the traditional idea of trash duty as a “man’s job,” as I have a bit of experience with this issue myself. I work as the director of a psychosocial day program that serves chronically and persistently mentally ill individuals. One of the daily chores every weekday is trash duty. One club member is responsible for taking out all of the trash in the club, and bringing it to the larger dumpster. I would say that this job is usually done about 50 percent of the time by a male, and 50 percent of the time by a female. Our culture, or the way that we operate, has simply normalized this task as equal opportunity (PSU, 2019).

    What is interesting about our club is that we are highly collectivistic in nature (PSU, 2019). All of our members are invested in the good of the club, and the volunteer jobs are seen as a service to the greater good. I was actually trained on the trash duty job by one of our female club members, and she was not even a staff member! She took great pride in knowing how and where to collect the trash, and in being physically strong enough to carry it all out in one trip. Our psychosocial club is all about “the good of the club.” We have many signs around the setting that say things like: “You are not in this alone,” or “Our success is everyone’s success.” I suppose that we have created a tiny collectivistic culture in our building wherein no job is relegated to one gender or sex, and there are no particular “heroes” (PSU, 2019). If someone is singled out for a job well done, it is in the spirit of service to the good of the whole. It seems that from Victor and Cullen’s perspective, our club members tend to look at ethical criteria through the local locus, and focus mostly on the team and stakeholders (PSU, 2019). It also seems that benevolence is a criterion that is strongly touted within our club, as friendships and the interest of the members are focused on quite a bit thematically (PSU, 2019).

    While it is not my place to say how others should lead or run their own businesses, I have seen firsthand just how wonderful and powerful it is to have equality among members of a team. Trash duty is just one of a sundry of jobs and tasks that are willingly taken on by members of all sexes. The culture of our psychosocial day club is one of collectivism for the good of the members, and this tends to create an environment that is warm and welcoming. I wonder what it would be like if you were to randomly assign trash duty to different members of your team, regardless of sex? Perhaps this would change the climate of your business, maybe even in a positive way that you did not expect. Thank you for sharing in such an honest fashion!

    Best,

    -Josh Gray

    References

    Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G. J. (n.d.). 6-D model of national culture. Retrieved from http://geerthofstede.com/culture-geert-hofstede-gert-jan-hofstede/6d-model-of-national-culture/

    PSU. (2019). PSY 833: L12 Globalism/Multicultural Issues. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l12-overview?module_item_id=25808533

    PSU. (2019). PSY 833: L13 Ethical Climate. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l13-overview?module_item_id=25808544

  3. Victor Joseph Goncalves April 8, 2019 at 12:12 PM #

    Lisa thank you for sharing your thoughts and between us I found your story quite interesting. Perhaps more so than ever before the pursuit for gender-equality is taking full shape and form as it continues to break boundaries both in the workplace as well as subsequently at home (its difficult to have one without the other in my humble opinion). The traditional roles and norms of male’s vs females appears to be shifting today in our societal context…that is we find more examples of stay-at-home dads and women, securing high ranking positions in the workplace. Your case is interesting because to your point it is based on cultural norms that align with the ideologies of Generation X…but do they align with Millennials? At first glance it does not appear to be the case and to your point it may be the leading cause for the issues you’ve discussed thus far. It’s an interesting situation and it begs the question as to whether this so-called sanitation in-equality could be undermining the overall efforts/intent of gender-equality. Why I don’t believe it to be the case the fact remains that it does touch on a preferred gender-specific role (that is in most cases women prefer men to handle the sanitation responsibilities of the household chores). I found this interesting NY Times article that touches on the gender preference and how the role of sanitation is viewed…between us what I find most interesting is how something as simple as say trash can lead us to such a fascinating conversation 
    Levin (2017) suggested that most women who live with a man are turned off by the idea of having to do this job (ie sanitation). As Levin put it, “it may be the last bastion of accepted 1950s behavior and in this case — and this case alone — women are fine with that” (Levin, 2017). I can appreciate the tongue-and-cheek tone of Levin’s writing in this case and while its evident (especially in your case) that this role is gender specific it appears to be the catalyst for the disruptions related to (male) employee performance. Are there are roles within the workplace that are specifically reserved for women and where men have the option to do it or not? In the end it is reasonable to consider that outliers like this case are likely to always exist in some shape or form (in my humble opinion).

    Reference:
    Levin, R. (2017). Taking Out the Trash? That’s Still a Man’s Job, Even for the Liberal Coastal Elite. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/style/who-takes-out-the-trash.html

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