Academic journal article Public Administration Research

Testing Relationships between Sex of Respondent, Sexual Harassment and Intentions to Reenlist in the U.S. Military

Academic journal article Public Administration Research

Testing Relationships between Sex of Respondent, Sexual Harassment and Intentions to Reenlist in the U.S. Military

Article excerpt

Abstract

Intentions to reenlist in the U.S. military are analyzed in relation to reported experiences of unwanted, uninvited individualized and more general environmental sexual behaviors and whether or not any such incidents are labeled as sexual harassment. Such behaviors should reduce the likelihood of reenlistment and harassing behaviors are expected to have a greater impact on the intentions of women compared to men. Data, from the "Armed Forces 2002 Sexual Harassment Survey," indicated harassment has a negative impact on reenlistment intentions and affects men and women differently. Environmental harassment is more related to women's reenlistment intentions, while individualized harassment is stronger for men. Accusations of individualized forms of sexual harassment may create a negative image of the organization and be more likely to be concealed. The anonymity of this survey may allow men to state that they experienced sexual harassment. Because of the "Don't ask..." policy, sexual orientation was not measured.

Keywords: retention, sexual harassment, individualized, environmental, military, climate

1. Testing Relationships between Sex of Respondent, Sexual Harassment and Intentions to Reenlist in the U.S. Military

One impact of experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace has largely been neglected in the literature. While the importance of experiencing sexual harassment and some of its negative impacts on individuals (Culbertson & Rosenfeld, 1994; Devilbiss, 1985; Firestone & Harris, 1994, 1999, 2004; Harris & Firestone, 1996, 1997) and organizational climate (Fain & Anderton, 1987; Firestone & Harris, 2004; Rosen & Martin, 1997) are well documented, there is a paucity of research focusing on the relationship between sexual harassment and plans to reenlist.

As an indicator of organizational/workplace climate, sexual harassment ought to be related to other climate variables, such as leadership attitudes/behaviors (Harris, 2011; Groves & LaRocca, 2011), cohesion (Mastroianni, 2005/2006), acceptance of women/minorities (Antecol & Cobb-Clark, 2009; Morgan, 2001; Lynch & Stover, 2008), and reporting through official channels (Firestone & Harris, 1994) and their outcomes. One such important outcome is a member's stated intention to reenlist or not. It is clear that any organization such as the military can be sustained only by members continuing to participate. The intent to continue one's work role has been shown to be an important predictor of actually continuing that role (Atchison & Lefferts, 1972; Butler & Holmes, 1984; Lakhani, 1988; Segal, Segal, Bachman, Freedman-Doan, & O'Malley, 1998; Van Breukelen, Van Der List, & Steensma, 2004). Similarly, Segal et al. found that "enlistment propensity has the most powerful effect on women's (and men's) actual enlistment" (p. 82). And further that women were less likely than men to enlist; a much smaller percentage expect to enlist than the percentage who indicate they would like to do so. They also argue that the "norm" of masculinity in the military may create a climate in which women fear their opportunities would be limited because of their sex. It seems likely that sexual (and other forms of gender) harassment contribute to these perceptions.

In this research, we assess reenlistment intention by responses to the question "How likely is it you would stay on active duty?" Thus, we are focused on whether respondents intend to make a long term commitment, rather than merely fulfill their obligation to the current term of service. Early research on organizational commitment also emphasized the self-interest associated with continuing an association, suggesting that individuals will attempt to change or terminate relationships which provide a negative net balance of rewards (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959; Becker, 1960; Kanter, 1968; Schoenherr & Greeley, 1974, Vroom, 1964). Therefore, if experiencing sexual harassment is perceived as part of a negative organizational experience, it seems likely that individuals who say they experienced harassment would be less likely to commit to a long term association with that organization. …

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