Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Losing the plot by victimising the victim

Very serious allegations against a Flight Centre Store Manager in today's Age. The manager is alleged to have engaged in "relentless" mistreatment of an employee and then reportedly victimised the top performing assistant manager for 'calling' such behaviour. Executive teams and HR Departments never look for such situations to deal with but deal with them emphatically they must.
A tragedy for all concerned if the allegations are true and the case potentially provides impetus for tougher victimisation laws that underscore the immorality and the folly of bullying staff and giving in to the instinct to "shoot the messenger"?

How many staff members will be motivated to stand up to inappropriate behaviour if they experience a backlash for speaking up? This is why the victimisation clause is enshrined in the legislation and why management must ensure that any unwelcome and offensive behaviour that gives rise to a  complaint, be stopped and further, that the complainant and anyone giving reasonable and courageous support to them must not become the targets of further hostile attention.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Slamming Tennis Prize Money and other EEO Matters

I admit it. I'm ambivalent. In the wake of a history-making men's final of the Australian Open the debate over prize money predictably reared its head again yesterday in the media. The breakdown in the Herald Sun of how much the women's and men's winner won for each minute on court was absurd when you consider that each respectively was paid for outcomes, not face time. As a change consultant and psychologist, I charge my time. I don't ask for bonuses for exceptional outcomes because that success is contingent upon so many variables.

It's not Victoria Azarenka's fault she outplayed a former No. 1 to such a degree she won in two sets and to love in the second. Was I disappointed it finished early? No! I couldn’t stand the noise coming from Shriekarova. But for those who paid a lot to attend the match, you'd have to ask them if they got their money's worth. Isn't it about quality, not quantity, you say?

This is where I'm ambivalent. The International Labour organisation signed a convention in 1951 about equal pay for work of equal value. If there is a legitimate argument for women in tennis receiving less prize money (disgracefully women in Australia earn approx. 86 cents in the dollar to every man for the same job) it should only be because they play the best of three sets, not five. It would not be just or legal to pay women less at work because they can't lift as much as a male factory worker. But for elite athletes, there should not be any question about stamina and the ability to go five sets. How well they fare on the day becomes a factor and adds to the theatre of the game as it did for Nadal and Djotkovic who were both near collapse at various stages of the match.

The fact is the women don't seem to want five sets (and where's the incentive if they get the same $ anyway) and the event promoters and broadcasters don't want it because the reality is women's tennis doesn't rate as well, hence the reason why tickets to the men's final are much more expensive.

I can understand what a vexed issue it is in 2012, how ugly the differential would look on paper. I champion equal rights at work every day. But equal pay for work of equal value is a worthy principle and fundamental to human rights. The requirement to play best of five in a Grand Slam puts men and women on a truly equal footing and gives supreme women athletes the respect they deserve for being able to do the job they're paid to do. I understand the economic connection between ratings, ticket sales and revenue, but ratings should not dictate the prize money (ask Karrie Webb) and if women are already getting the money, let them pull their weight, not for face time as that's unpredictable, but for effort.

When equal prize money was first granted, Serena Williams said it was a victory for women all over the world. I don't think the women in Kazakhstan being paid 65 cents in the male dollar would celebrate Serena's extra half a million, even more so if she spent 48 minutes on court getting it.