Guidelines for Discussion

Guidelines for Discussion
(on Applying the for National Weather Center Activities and Procedures)

These guidelines are adapted from the Keck Geology Consortium Project Directors Handbook. All leads/managers (defined as anyone in a role of authority in any working conditions) are expected to inform all participants of the guidelines that clarify both behavioral expectations while they participate in the planned activity, and options available should something happen. This can be a brief discussion that highlights the following points:

  1. Make explicit the fact that there are general behavioral expectations for all, and they are dependent upon the activity. Behavioral expectations may include, but are not limited to, boundaries related to alcohol and drug use, community living issues (e.g. living arrangements, respecting property and privacy, cleanliness, personal hygiene), interacting with locals when participants travel off-site, sexual interactions, etc.
  2. Emphasize that individual behavior can and does impact the group’s dynamics, and impacts an individual’s level of comfort within the broader group context.
  3. Unacceptable behavior is not limited to only sexual harassment and assault. Other types of negative and harmful behaviors are also considered unacceptable.

Explain that there is a document describing NWC principles of behavior in addition to all Home Institution policies, and briefly outline key points:

  1. The document describing NWC principles of behavior offers parameters defining inappropriate behaviors
  2. The document describing NWC principles of behavior encourages participants to bring concerns forward and provides several avenues through which to do so
  3. For non-typical working conditions, there is at least one contact point on site to whom complaints can be made
  4. There are defined procedures in place for handling violations with a range of consequences applicable to each situation
  5. There is a support network in place for participants with concerns

Encourage discussion of questions or points regarding the policy.

Background:
Nelson et al. (2017) identified several types of negative behaviors that can occur in the work place and evaluated how often they occurred in work environments with varying levels of defined rules and rule enforcement. The occurrence of negative behaviors reduces when clear rules are present and enforced (see Fig. 1 below). The paper classified negative behavior into five different categories. While these are not the only possible types of negative behaviors that may occur in the work place, the most common behaviors in their study were as follows:

  1. Tests include behavioral benchmarks which are intended to define the in/out group dynamics or who is in the “in-crowd” in a group setting.
  2. Gendered labor includes assigning tasks to individuals based on stereotypes concerning their perceived gender.
  3. Alienation is described as a feeling of isolation from others in the field including during data collection or work tasks and social settings.
  4. Harassment includes both sexual and non-sexual harassing behavior. Harassment can generally be defined as verbal or physical conduct that is directed at an individual or a group when such conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive so as to have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s or group’s academic or work performance or of creating a hostile academic or work environment viewed by examining a totality of the circumstances from the standpoint of a reasonable person (adapted from OU’s non-discrimination policy). Sexual harassment is unwelcome speech or conduct undertaken because of an individual’s gender or is sexual in nature and is so severe, pervasive, or persistent, objectively and subjectively offensive that it has the systematic effect of unreasonably interfering with or depriving someone of educational, institutional, or employment access, benefits, activities, or opportunities (adapted from OU’s Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination, and Harassment Policy).
  5. Assault includes both sexual and non-sexual behavior. The definition of assault varies by jurisdiction, but is generally defined as intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. Physical injury is not required. Similarly, the definition of sexual assault varies, the term generally refers to any unwanted sexual contact, up to and including rape.

It is important to note that, while male-to-female harassment and assault are the most common, incidents can and do occur between individuals of the same sex, and females can and do harass or assault males. Also note that these five negative behaviors are not the only types that can occur in the work place.


Figure 1. Behaviors indicated in the work place sorted by rule states (Nelson et al. 2017).

The document describing NWC principles of behaviors aims to define rules and expected behavior and document the enforcement procedures if any negative or harmful situations are observed. The resources in that document are meant to empower managers and participants to create safer working environments.  The scenarios provided here are meant to promote the understanding of how negative situations can occur and how they can be addressed. These scenarios can be used as tools in a discussion, but they are also useful as reading material.

Scenarios:
As you consider the following scenarios, imagine how you would respond. Can you identify the negative behaviors present in each scenario? Some are clearer than others. What would you do first? What safety issues seem salient? With whom would you consult about this situation? How would you attend both to the needs of the individuals directly involved and to the potential impact on the rest of the group? What local and institutional resources could you use? Please discuss any questions you have about appropriate responses to these scenarios with your immediate supervisor or any of the contacts provided in the document describing NWC principles of behavior.

Situation #1: A student complains that another participant continuously “stares them down, looking at them in a sexual way.” The participant often says they find the student attractive and would like to “hook up”. The student has told the participant several times they are not interested. The student is increasingly uncomfortable working with the participant even when others are present.

Situation #2: Three new participants are joining an annual workshop for the first time. Some more seasoned participants invite the new people to an after-hours meet up at a local bar. One of the new participants does not drink, so they decline the invite. The next day at the workshop, the two new participants that joined the seasoned group are assigned leadership roles for collaborative analysis. The new participant that declined is not given any role and not invited to additional social gatherings, including that day’s lunch outing.

Situation #3: A group of students are on a field trip requiring an overnight stay at a camp. After an evening of drinking a student wakes up to find another drunken student in her tent, groping her breasts and attempting to unzip her sleeping bag. She quietly tries to push this individual away and discourage their behavior, fearful that if she is too loud the others will hear and assume she is a willing participant. The individual student persists in their efforts, finally agreeing to leave her alone if she goes along for a little while. She agrees to this, and the individual finally leaves. The next morning, she narrates these events to you and asks you to kick the other student out of the program.

Situation #4: On a month-long field program, several participants are housed together in a rented house. While everyone gets along fairly well, grocery shopping and food preparation is left to the only female participant in the group. While she is out to grocery shop, the rest of the participants are out collecting data.

Situation #5: Some new participants arrive at a remote field site to join an existing group. On the scheduled down day on which the new participants arrive, everyone decides to go on a group hike to a nearby ridgeline. One of the newly arrived participants did not pack good hiking shoes and is quite tired from the day’s travel to the site. Not feeling safe to return to the house alone, they request the group cut the hike short. The group does so, but several participants make begrudging comments about this participant’s inability to keep up.

Situation #6: You observe that the males in the group often make sexual jokes and flirt with the women in the office. The women seem to go along with this, but the atmosphere is sexualized.

Situation #7: One morning, you are riding the elevator with your friend Paul, who is an African American man, when another colleague boards. This colleague begins speaking to Paul about a topic with which Paul is not familiar, and you quickly realize Paul has been mistaken for Chris, the only other African American male employed at your office. Other than the color of their skin and their gender expression, Paul and Chris do not look very similar.

Situation #8: During a seminar, you observe a faculty member flirting with a student. The student appears interested. You are concerned about the impact of this relationship on others in the educational setting, and the power imbalance between the student and faculty member.

Review:
Scenario 1 is an example of sexual harassment. The described events are interfering with or depriving the student of a safe and welcoming working environment. Incidences of sexual harassment should be reported via the resources described in the document describing NWC principles of behavior.

Scenario 2 is an example of alienation. After declining to join a social event in which the participant was uncomfortable, they are denied access and isolated from both work tasks and additional social settings. Leads/managers should work to find a resolution that best fits the specifics of the situation. Possible actions range from mediation, to rearranging working groups, to removing persistent actors from the working environment. In extreme or repeated cases, reporting the behavior to appropriate authorities/offices may be necessary.

Scenario 3 is an example of sexual assault. The participant did not consent continuously and may have been pressured or coerced into any perceived consensual activity. Sexual assault should be immediately reported the resources described in the document describing NWC principles of behavior

Scenario 4 in an example of gendered labor. Such instances can become damaging and alienating to those experiencing it, and are often thought to be part of the ‘leaky pipeline’ in STEM fields. They can also create a working environment that is conducive to additional negative behaviors. Leads/managers should address these situations quickly. Possible actions range from mediation, to rearranging working groups, to removing persistent actors from the working environment. In extreme or repeated cases, reporting the behavior to appropriate authorities/offices may be necessary.

Scenario 5 is an example of testing behavior. These behaviors are often undertaken to establish ‘in-group’/‘out-group’ dynamics. In addition to immediate negative consequences for those experiencing it, testing creates a working environment that is conducive to additional negative behaviors. Leads/managers should work to find a resolution that best fits the specifics of the situation. Possible actions range from mediation, to rearranging working groups, to removing persistent actors from the working environment. In extreme or repeated cases, reporting the behavior to appropriate authorities/offices may be necessary.

Scenario 6 is not a clear example of a specific behavior, but it does create a working environment that is conducive to several negative behaviors. Such environmental conditions should be addressed by leads/managers quickly. Possible actions range from mediation, to rearranging working groups, to removing persistent actors from the working environment. In extreme or repeated cases, reporting the behavior to appropriate authorities/offices may be necessary.

Scenario 7 is an example of racial bias in the workplace. While the colleague’s actions were not necessarily malicious, such microaggressions can be harmful to those experiencing them. Everyone is encouraged to consider their own implicit biases and work to improve upon them. If the individual experiencing this behavior is uncomfortable, leads/managers should work to find a resolution that best fits the specifics of the situation. Possible actions range from mediation, to implementing implicit bias training, and in extreme or repeated cases, reporting the behavior to appropriate authorities/offices.

Scenario 8 is not a clear example of a specific behavior, but does require a reflection on OU’s consensual sexual relationships policy: “Consensual amorous, dating, or sexual relationships have inherent risks when they occur between a faculty member, supervisor, or other member of the University community and any person over whom he or she has a professional responsibility. As noted in the sex discrimination and sexual harassment policy, the risks include a student or subordinate’s feeling coerced into an unwanted relationship to ensure they receive a proper educational or employment experience; potential conflicts of interest in which the person is in a position to evaluate the work or make personnel or academic decisions with respect to the individual with whom he or she is romantically involved; a perception by students or employees that a fellow student or coworker who is involved in a romantic relationship with his or her supervisor or professor will receive an unfair advantage; either or both of the parties engaging in behavior destructive to the other or their academic or working environments if the relationship ends; and the potential that University/state resources are used inappropriately to further the romantic relationship.” Due to these complications and possible legal liability issues, such relationships are strongly discouraged. Leads/managers should consult with all involved parties about these risks and liabilities.