Controversial Workplace Issues

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Employee management requires employers to take steps to create productive, positive workplaces where workers feel secure and understand expectations. However, workplace controversies can still occur in a diverse workplace for a variety of reasons. Employers can reduce the likelihood of lost productivity due to workplace controversies by understanding common sources of issues and taking steps to prevent them before they occur.

Employee Surveillance

Employee surveillance is a growing workplace issue due to new technologies that give employers new options for monitoring workers, sometimes without their knowledge. Employers may monitor web usage to ensure that workers don't spend excessive time performing personal tasks online during work hours. Video surveillance, telephone monitoring and location monitoring using an employer-issued mobile phone or tablet computer all give employers potentially valuable information about employee actions, but can also seem like invasions of privacy to workers or outsiders. A clear and consistent surveillance policy that workers are aware of is one of the most effective ways to keep this issue from becoming a major point of contention between workers and management.

Gender Equality

Gender equality is another controversial workplace issue that employer policies can help address. Despite laws including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that require employers to treat women equally when it comes to hiring, pay and assignment decisions, gender inequality, or its appearance, can still exist in a workplace. For example, an employer that offers maternity leave for female employees but doesn't offer a comparable form of paid leave for men who become fathers or members of same-sex couples who adopt children, can cause a gender controversy. Employers can also inform workers of the reasons for their failures to achieve promotions or raises, eliminating the possible belief that the gender motivated the employer's decision.

Incentive Pay

Many employers offer incentive pay to encourage motivation and reward certain workers for meeting goals or surpassing expectations. However, incentive pay can also cause workers to become overly competitive and work toward personal goals rather than focusing on organizational objectives. Workers who receive fewer chances to earn incentive pay can come to resent those who earn more, while the structure of an incentive pay system, such as an annual bonus program that rewards managers and team leaders but not all workers, can itself cause controversy and claims of unfairness.

Personal Differences

The personal differences among workers can cause workplace controversies when they become the subjects of conversation and debate during work hours. Workers who discuss personal matters such as politics, religion, sexual orientation and cultural tradition may inadvertently start arguments that simple discretion could have helped avoid. Employers should be clear about which subjects they expect workers not to discuss in the workplace, and impose a workplace culture that respects dissenting viewpoints when they do arise.

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