Title page for ETD etd-02162012-103105

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Mortimer, Claire
URN etd-02162012-103105
Document Title An exploratory study on the perceived prevalence and effect of sexual attraction in the South African workplace
Degree MCom
Department Human Resource Management
Advisor Name Title
Mrs S O'Neil Supervisor
  • effects of sexual attraction
  • sexual attraction in the workplace
Date 2009-08-01
Availability unrestricted
South African organisations face increasing diversification of the workforce, with the concomitant benefits and potential challenges thereof. Along with the traditional approaches towards the management of diversity, less conventional areas have yet to be explored within the South African context. One such area is that of sexual attraction in the workplace. With the growing need for organisations to become employers of choice, to create organisational competitive advantage and optimally leverage their human capital it is becoming evident that acknowledgment of innate humanity is essential.

The question under exploration was to determine what the perceptions surrounding the prevalence and effects of sexual attraction in the South African workplace are. Employees are human beings, human beings are essentially sexual in nature and therefore it can be said that sexuality and all its composite elements are present in and acting upon organisations. The researcher focused exclusively on self-reported perceptions and experiences surrounding this phenomenon in the workplace, including its perceived effects on productivity; communication; job performance; job involvement; job satisfaction, stress; sexual harassment; morale; the individual and the workgroup. In addition the perceived roles of management in regulating sexual attraction as well as potential perceived motives underlying its initiation in organisations were also explored. The research explored and described differences with regards to these areas of organisational life in respect of age groups; gender; marital status; relationship status; experience of sexual attraction; awareness of sexual attraction and workplace rendezvous experiences.

A self-administered questionnaire was designed specifically for the study by the researcher and was used to gain feedback from 155 respondents in numerous fields and organisations through a mixed methods sampling technique. Analysis of data was statistical in nature, including detailed descriptive or frequency distributions; correlations and inferential statistics.

The research yielded substantial results with regards to perceptions of sexual attraction in the South African workplace, with numerous implications for management and Human Resource practitioners abounding. Sexual attraction in the workplace is perceived to be a prevalent organisational condition amongst respondents with findings revealing that it is viewed as inevitability in the workplace. Personal experience of sexual attraction was alluded to by the majority of respondents. In addition, various organisational factors, such as proximity, similarity and ongoing work requirements were confirmed as having a perceived influence on the prevalence of sexual attraction amongst co-workers. This linked with findings and existing research with regards to aspects of diversity in the workplace, particularly similarity of moral values.

In line with the body of literature, elements underlying sexual attraction were divergent, indicating that attraction is individual specific. Younger respondents indicated that they found physical elements of their co-workers attractive, which was less the case for the older respondent group.

When evaluating findings on the perceived effects of sexual attraction in the workplace it was evident that respondents felt that sexual attraction had a slight positive effect on productivity. Significant differences were observed between age groups as well as personal experience of sexual attraction on this construct. Interestingly, sexual attraction was perceived to have a positive effect on job involvement by respondents, with differences observed due to age groups and amongst individuals whom had been previously sexually attracted to a colleague and those whom had not. Gender differences were also observed herein, with females having higher perceived positive effects on job involvement.

Job satisfaction was perceived to be positively affected by sexual attraction in the workplace by respondents. Significant differences between age groups as well as with regards to marital statuses and relationship statuses were also found with regards to this construct. Mixed perceptions existed around the influence of sexual attraction on the experience of stress, with a respondents age group found to have an influence thereon. In addition thereto, a respondentís marital status also made a difference in this regard. Generally the findings concurred with the available literature on the topic. Moreover, the general affects of sexual attraction on the individual involved in this workplace dynamic were fairly positively perceived by respondents. This finding was evidenced to be influenced to some extent by respondentsí experience of prior sexual attraction to a colleague; age; relationship status and marital status. The latter was found to have the largest influence in this regard.

Sexual attraction was perceived by respondents to have a negative effect on communication and job performance. The perception of the latter was found to be significantly different between individuals whom had been aware of sexual attraction in the workplace and those whom had not indicated that this was the case; as well as with respondents whom reported prior sexual attraction to a colleague having higher perceived positive influences thereof on job performance. Age was also found to be an influential factor on perceptions surrounding job performance. Morale was found to be slightly negatively affected due to sexual attraction according to reported perceptions of respondents. The majority of respondents were inclined to feel that sexual harassment is an important organisational issue, yet the effects of sexual attraction thereupon may not be as negative as one might have thought. Prior sexual attraction to a colleague was found to have an influence on respondent perceptions of sexual harassment, as did the length of marriage for married respondents.

Most respondents perceived sexual attraction to have more of a negative effect on the workgroup surrounding the sexually attracted individuals. Influencing variables in this regard were respondent age and marital status. In addition, motives underlying sexual attraction were negatively perceived by respondents. Marital status was found to have an influence on respondent perceptions of sexual attraction motives.

Findings revealed that respondents in general felt that management has some form of role to play in the regulation of this workplace dynamic. However, the vast majority of respondents felt that it was the responsibility of the individual employee to manage their own sexual attraction in the workplace. Differences in this perception were found between males and females; age groups as well as the length of marriages of married respondents.

The research established that sexual attraction is a prevalent condition in South African organisations. Moreover, substantial effects of sexual attraction were reported on various important areas of organisational functioning.

Copyright 2009, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Mortimer, C 2009, An exploratory study on the perceived prevalence and effect of sexual attraction in the South African workplace, MCom dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-02162012-103105 / >


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