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).
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