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Management: Defining Sensitive Policies

by on January 10, 2010

Gary, L., Elliot, B., Taylor, L., Andrews, R., & Goliaszewski, S. (2008). When Steve Becomes Stephanie.  Harvard Business Review 86 (12), 35-42. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.

A very interesting transgender case study of LaSalle Chemical Company is available on the Harvard Business Review site. (Click here to read it). The case study offers an insight to managers on how to deal with gender change at work.

To deal with sensitive issues like transgender, companies should have pre-defined transgender policies in place. Management should not wait for an employee to inform them about his/her gender change and then prepare such policies. In the case of LaSalle Chemical, there were no transgender policies pre-defined. In such cases, management could end up taking wrong decisions which could then in turn hamper the growth of the company or sometimes even morally hurt their employees. In this case, Steve is an appointed Sales Director of the company. When Steve informs management about his decision to change his gender, Henrietta, Senior Vice President for Human Resources is considering giving Steve an internal position, which would mean a demotion for Steve. This would definitely demoralize Steve and his work efficiency. Also managers should be prepared to provide training to the team (the team, in which a transgender is taking place), to help employees work through their misperceptions and fears about transgender. I like and support the way Ronald Andrews, a VP and head of HR at Prudential’s U.S. says that, “That said, if strong opposition to Debbie’s transition had continued, we were prepared to invest some time in sorting out the problem.” Also it is important for managers to determine the best time and method to inform their team about such transitions. In this case, before the management could reveal to Alex and the team about Steve’s transgender, Alex came to know about it by reading a confidential letter which he was not supposed to read. The news of Steve’s gender change made Alex upset and Alex’s outrageous behavior could lead to bigger problems for Henrietta and LaSella Chemical.

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One Comment
  1. Sanjeevi Sturges permalink

    Very interesting, especially the real world commentaries.

    It’s easy to think that the issues managers deal with are known/routine/common. It’s nice to have the wake up call that when you’re dealing with people, you’re bound to encounter situations that are new to you and “complicated”.

    I also appreciate how clearly the commentaries give specific advice like: have a policy in place beforehand, realize that “business as usual” can continue, and provide education.

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