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Workplace banter can identify future leaders


Workplace rituals can weed out the potential leaders, according to a new book.

Workers and bosses often subject staff to apparently meaningless rituals in order to test their reactions and determine potential leaders, according to a new book by an organisation behaviour expert at Sheffield Hallam University.

'Hazing' is the process whereby an individual or group subjects a newcomer to a ritual test of character. The ‘test’ sometimes involves coping with humiliation, but could also be based on high-risk financial, drinking or sexual activity. According to experts, whatever the ‘test’, the purpose is to check whether the newcomer’s response meets with the approval of the hazer.
The new book, Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy, is by Dr Rory Ridley-Duff, senior lecturer in organisation behaviour and human resource management at Sheffield Hallam University. In it, he argues that changes in employment law are blurring the boundary between hazing and harassment, creating acute difficulties for human resource professionals.
Dr Ridley-Duff said: "The problem arises because new discrimination laws focus on the feelings of the person being hazed while ignoring the intentions of the hazer. "The current understanding of hazing is problematic because it's often mistaken for harassment. Hazing is often a way of initiating new workers, but it serves a purpose in that the resulting reaction shows whether the newcomer will be submissive or stand up for themselves.
"The challenge is greatest in high-risk occupations such as the police, military, politics and management teams, where the ability to cope with hazing generates high-trust relationships. The same behaviour, however, can lead to harassment claims if an employee believes they have been rejected or humiliated by their colleagues."
Dr Ridley-Duff also reports that women are just as likely to 'haze' colleagues as men but it is often not recognised as such. He added: "Hazing is a common behaviour for both men and women. While men's hazing is frequently labelled 'harassment', women's hazing is usually not recognised at all, especially by other women."

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