Singled out at work places – 02 Nov 2010

How should single people handle personal queries on the work situations is a question we often deal with. What should I tell my colleagues when they probe into my personal life is something I have often been asked. Should we tell them to mind their own business which becomes rude, should we skirt the issue by making lame excuses and telling lies which many may not like to do, or should we honestly tell about ourselves even if I do not feel like doing it, haunts many employees who may be socially shy, temperamentally introverts or just too privacy loving. Each one has a right to personal privacy and a right to refuse information they do not want to give. How best to do that is the question. Interestingly such questions about personal life are more thrown at employees who are single women as compared to single men! We would generally think this is a typically Indian situation with marriage having such a high premium in our country but we are in for a surprise at this point. It’s quite or very much the same in many countries.

Singles are singled out for personal queries. The favourite one being ‘why have you not married so far’. People are curious to know the reasons for singlehood and although this could apply to both men and women, there is a bigger curiosity for women folks. A single man is an oddity as well and could be equally harassed by colleagues to join the bandwagon of the fortunately /unfortunately married men, but a single woman is a bigger oddity! Did no one like her enough to marry her, is she being continuously rejected by men, does she have an ugly handicap, is she involved with a guy, the curiosity has no limits. Match- making, the favourite pastime for many elders works overtime as generous souls try their best to ‘fix’ them up!

Two enthusiastic women professors Bella DePaulo and Wendy Casper are working on the issue of making workplaces singles friendly. They say that “Family-friendly organizational culture” is already an established topic of study in academic circles but singles friendly organizational culture is not.

Organisations are sensitised to the needs of families and their responsibilities and may make provisions for them. Work-life balance concepts spring from such concerns about the time demands of organisations on people who have families to look after. These two women argue that singles (it could be country  specific) are treated inequitably in terms of salary and health insurance. They argue that singles also live in families and have to take care of them. They  also have their own set of priorities for their life. The main idea is to make organisations friendly to all employees regardless of their marital, relationship or parental status the two crusaders say. The work place should be a fair and friendly place for all types of employees irrespective of their backgrounds.

Bella DePaulo to corroborate her view about biases against single women analyses the Forbes report on the ‘100 most powerful women in the world’ and finds that on the top of the profile of these women besides factors like education their marital status has also been included! She compares it with the Forbes list of ‘most powerful people’ which mentions mostly men and some women, and in that list the marital status of men is not included in the top of each profile as it does for the all-women list! This is double standards at its best quite clearly. When reputed entities indulge in such discriminatory behaviour lesser mortals can be discounted and forgiven.

The demand to make organisations friendly and fair to all employees seems to be a just and rational demand. With increasing number of adults including both men and women opting out of marriage and choosing to remain single and deciding to be happy with their single status the old attitudes become discriminatory. Newer ideas should give way to newer attitudes and behaviour. I am sure no one can have any doubts about that!

Published in The Hitavada – Future 02 Nov 2010

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *