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Employee Social Groups in the Workplace

Anonymous asks:

A lot of new employee groups have been formed at my place of employ. There's the Asian Women's group; there's the Young Professional's group (for those under 30); there's a Black Professional's group, and - surprisingly, given the corporate culture - a GLBT group (or at least it's GL, not sure about the BT).

Every group says anyone is welcome to join. I'm pretty sure they have to say that. And I'm pretty sure that, within reason, any group that asks to form has to be allowed. The ones named above are all pretty new - within the last year, I think, possibly a little longer.

I don't have problems with those groups. What does bug me is the creation of the newest group I'm aware of - for White Male Professionals.

Isn't it tacky to have a group to promote the unity and advancement of the one group that's typically in the front of everything? I'm torn between thinking, "Wow, that just reeks of bitterness and a general tit-for-tat attitude," and thinking, "Well, they're entitled...and do face certain issues as a group...and why do I think the group is wrong when I don't think the others are?"

What's your take on the topic?

My take is that it is pretty damn awesome that someone started a White Male Professionals group in response to those other groups to show how ridiculous they are. I don't think the workplace is the right place for any of those groups, with the possible exception of the Young Professionals group because the assumption there is that the young'uns have less experience than older professionals and therefore need specific support for the advancement of their careers. I think the other groups are inherently discriminatory even if they are not exclusionary. Do Asian women need specific support for the advancement of their careers simply because they are Asian and women? No. Same goes for blacks, gays, lesbians and white males. To "promote the unity and advancement" of a group of people based on the descriptions used in the names of the groups is discriminatory and assumes that each member of the group is worthy of advancement based on the one characteristic.

If the groups that were forming were more along the lines of MBA Study Group or Java Skills Group or Stop Smoking Support Group or even Toastmasters (are they still around), I would think they were completely appropriate and relevant for the workplace.

Comments

Karla

PM: Yes, Toastmasters is still around. I am one. My main fantasy in life is that meetings at work would run as efficiently as TM meetings, with an actual agenda and time limits.

But as for the social groups: ooooooh, this is a sticky one. If it's truly a "social" group, I have a hard time calling any group ridiculous. People could want to gather socially because they have any number of things in common: race, culture, gender, sexuality or any of things mentioned by PM. So should a workplace support these "social" groups or only "professional" groups? And if it's strictly professional, is it appropriate to have separate groups based on categories such as race or sex? Ethically, I am opposed to it. Personally, I could care less. I don't care what groups composed of what type of people meet where. PM, it's interesting that you assume the White Male Professional Group formed to make a satirical statement about other groups. Your assumption implies that, like Anonymous thought, there is little chance that they formed because they face certain issues as a group. Most people laugh at the thought that white male professionals would have any "issues" or challenges worth forming a group so we assume they must have formed just to make a statement about exclusion. Which is funny, I must admit.

So PM, I agree that if you are working for professional advancement based on a single characteristic, that is wrong. But if you are just meeting socially because you have some commonalities, I don't see anything wrong with it, whether your group is considered "politically correct" or not.

Peeved Michelle

I would assume it was "professional" groups and not "social" groups because I used the word "social," not the person asking the question.

That doesn't really change my opinion, though. If the group is purely social, it shouldn't be sanctioned by the company and should not use company resources to advertise the group or to hold the group meetings. If the group is professional, then forming groups around the characteristics described above is a discriminatory practice.

I do assume the white males formed their group in backlash. I also assume that the next group is going to be something like White Suburban Females with Pre-School Age Children Who Like Pilates (but anyone can join!)

Karla Whitaker

Ha! How about Straight Atheist Pacific Islander Single Moms Who Enjoy Baking. But all are welcome!

Robin

I've wondered about this for some time now. My first job was in an area that was overwhelmingly black (which is the preferred term in that area.) And everything was the 'black' this and 'black' that, serving the needs of the black community. But if someone were to start a group or newspaper, etc., to serve the needs of the white community, that would be considered racist.

Anyway, maybe if there were all those other groups, like toastmasters, at your workplace, people wouldn't see the need for groups based on racial or gender categories. Everyone would have the chance to belong to a group - which is what I think most people want.

blaugra

Sounds like this workplace is getting as cliquey as a high school cafeteria.

Do people really need to define themselves at work not only by their department and profession, but also by their gender or race? If the Asian Women get together to specifically participate in Asian culture events in the city and promote those events within the company, that's OK. A GLBT group would be fine too as long as they didn't get all political with their agenda on company property. The White Male Professionals - funny. Sounds benign to me. And incredibly boring. Are their monthly meetings held at TGIFriday's? They probably just didn't want to be left out, like lots of white Americans who long to be part of a special group.

If the company is big then I see nothing wrong with work-sanctioned groups centered around activities - I worked at a place that supported a bowling league, opera society, Spanish club, and adoption support group. Huh, why did I ever leave that company?

jo

The evil empire (microsoft) has a ton of work-sanctioned groups. They do it because if they have these groups on the campus, then you have even less of a need to ever leave work.

Jodi

I like Karla's group! Ha! I might just start the Married But Childless and A Little Bitter That The Rest of You Come In Late & Leave Early Because Of Your Kids group at my work. Except I'd be the only member and they'd all STILL stare at me like I'm the freak!

Original

I recently learned that part of the reason the company has sanctioned these groups - and while I'm sure there's a social aspect to them, PM's right - these are meant to be professional groups and not primarily social outlets - is to foster the spirit of inclusion, which means that everyone has a voice.

Still not sure I buy the need, though.

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