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Sloan to hold workshop on conduct

Video vignettes dealing with successful responses to offensive or awkward situations in the workplace will be the centerpiece of a Professional Conduct Workshop at the Sloan School on Friday, April 11.

Dean Glen Urban has urged professors to cancel classes that day so that faculty and students can attend. Sloan administrators and staff have also been encouraged to participate.

The taped vignettes were created by Sloan Professors Thomas Kochan and Maureen Scully, who developed the Professional Conduct Project with the help of Dr. Mary Rowe, ombuds-person in the President's Office and a Sloan adjunct professor. The vignettes are meant to highlight working conditions and workforce interchanges that frequently occur both at Sloan and in the larger working environment, the professors said.

The videos cover situations such as an instance where a faculty member working with a secretary is interrupted by another faculty member with an urgent request. The direct "victim" of this event is the secretary, who is made to feel invisible, often for a long time, as the two professors work out their concerns. One solution suggested by Kochan is to have the resident faculty member say to the interrupting one, "Excuse me, I need 10 minutes to finish up these projects with Jane now, can I help you then?" or "Jane, this is a real emergency, please excuse me while I get this material for Bob."

Other vignettes include a group of students discussing whether a lecture contained subtle negative racial stereotypes, and gender bias at a recruiting session.

"The tapes and the discussions which will follow them are designed to increase awareness of the elevated standards of professional conduct now required in multicultural and team-based work sites," Professor Scully said. "Workplace interactions have become more complex and the workshop will use the metaphor `lessons from the kaleidoscope,' which evokes a moving mosaic of colors and patterns, much like the dynamic diversity of the workplace. This metaphor invites managers to look through a new lens."

Professor Kochan said the discussions and the 16 tapes--created for the workshop and written, filmed, and edited at MIT using real personnel as actors--will attempt to unlock the potential of bystanders to recognize, and possibly mediate, potential workplace conflicts. "Concentrating on the role of the bystander is a new development in this area," he said.

The Professional Conduct Workshop will begin at 10am with remarks by Dean Urban in Wong Auditorium, followed by dispersal of the audience into breakout groups, the viewing and discussion of three or four vignettes by each group, lunch, small group debriefings, and a concluding address at 1:30pm in Wong Auditorium.

The group discussions will be led by professional industry facilitators and trained Sloan faculty. Each discussion group will ideally include faculty, staff, administrators and students from various Sloan programs.

The events are a pilot program developed in conjunction with consultant Laura Moorehead, former director of diversity strategy for Lotus Development Corp.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 3, 1997.

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