Social sexual behaviour and co-worker trust in start-up enterprises

Abstract

Workplace behaviours and norms are gaining increased prominence in the literature on start-up enterprises. Research attention has focused on the critical role that these behaviours and norms play in influencing start-up effectiveness but our understanding of their role in influencing trust in a start-up environment is underdeveloped. The present article investigates the role that workplace social sexual behaviours play in shaping co-worker trust within start-ups. Using data from the GUESSS (2018) international study of entrepreneurial attitudes and experiences, we find that certain social sexual behaviours undermine trust, and related outcomes such as the willingness to delegate and the sense that co-workers are honest. In particular, experiencing inappropriate looks, flirtation, or sexual gossip predict lower levels of co-worker trust. Our findings also indicate that characteristics of the source of the behaviour are important in terms of gender and hierarchical relationship. In our discussion section, we consider the mechanisms underlying these relationships and in particular how social sexual behaviour may influence trustworthiness. Taken together, our results point to a significant efficiency cost to new enterprises that take a permissive view of social sexual behaviour in the workplace.

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Data availability

The data used in this study was compiled as part of the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students Survey (GUESSS). See the GUESSS website for details on accessing the data http://www.guesssurvey.org/.

Notes

  1. 1.

    For more information on the GUESSS project, see http://www.guesssurvey.org.

  2. 2.

    The international project was developed by Prof. Dr. Philipp Sieger (Swiss Research Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Gallen).

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank the National Centre for Family Business at Dublin City University for providing access to the GUESSS dataset. We also thank our two anonymous referees and the editors of this special issue of SBE for their guidance and feedback.

Funding

The National Centre for Family Business at DCU provided access to the GUESSS data.

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Correspondence to Roisin Lyons.

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Gillanders, R., Lyons, R. & van der Werff, L. Social sexual behaviour and co-worker trust in start-up enterprises. Small Bus Econ 57, 765–780 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-020-00381-5

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Keywords

  • Social sexual behaviour
  • Start-up employee
  • Co-worker trust
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Harassing behaviours
  • Start-up workplace

JEL classifications

  • L26
  • E24
  • J28