-5

Should I tell the director of a lab in a business school how I was personally affected about thier actions while participating in a study? I post this in "workplace" because even though I am a student and they are a faculty member of a university, I met them in a professional setting as a paid participant of a research study and we are in different faculties.

The action was that they declined to shake my hand for religious reasons (we are the opposite sex). This is not about wanting to shake someones hand, I do not want to contact anyone who doesn't want to for any reason. The way I was personally affected by their actions was that I was really emotionally and personally distracted after the incident and they might want to know about the experience someone had in their lab.

I value that they have religious rights, and want to respect those as much as possible. On the other hand, I do happen to value open communication on a personal level as being more socially active than being silent. I just want to tell them that it made me feel like: "You can't use the information from my research session because if you can't see me for more than a body, then that's equivalent of not seeing me as a human subject in your research trial". That's being petty though, I want to engage in active listening as much as expressing myself, and would never actually withhold my information from the study.

It has also been recommended to me that I offer alternatives such as offering a wave instead of a handshake, or just not disclosing the reason for the declined contact if it is discriminatory.

In case I did decide to contact the individual, I contacted my student union's ombudsman asking for what services I might have available in terms of peer support. I don't know what this support would look like maybe editing a draft letter or having mental health back-up. I got an automated response that they are out of office until after the semester is over.

Is it normal in a professional environment to inform a director of emotional discomfort experienced on their site?

9
  • Did he forgo shaking the hands of participants who were male? In other words, because he couldn't shake your hand because you are female, did he decline to shake any hands, thus still treating you equally? Nov 21 '18 at 23:46
  • @thursdaysgeek Honestly, my memory is not perfect. I did participate in the study with another person but the director was not in the room when we entered. I initiated the handshake as I was leaving, so it was the last thing that happened in the lab. Nov 21 '18 at 23:48
  • there does not seem to be any generic 'religion' stack exchange, any other suggestion as to where this question is appropriate would be appreciated. Nov 22 '18 at 0:15
  • @JoeStrazzere I can't really assume someone's religious affiliation, I would have to contact them to find out. They just said "for religious reasons" Nov 22 '18 at 0:32
  • Since you mention Islam, this did come up when I searched for it generally. Islam states to refrain from "necessary contact". Is this professionally "necessary" contact? I don't have any religious affiliation. Nov 22 '18 at 0:34
1

He [Director of the Research Lab] declined to shake my hand for religious reasons (we are the opposite sex).

Given that [he did not shake your hand on religious grounds, it's very likely that the Director of the Research Lab is Muslim or Jewish. I would assume he is not singling you out and treating you differently than he would other members of the opposite gender. When it comes to physical contact between two people, I always abide by whoever wants less physical contact.

I value that he has religious rights, and want to respect those as much as possible. On the other hand, I do happen to value open communication on a personal level as being more socially active than being silent. I just want to tell him that it made me feel like: "You can't use the information from my research session because if you can't see me for more than a body, then that's equivalent of not seeing me as a human subject in your research trial".

We all differ religiously, culturally and personally on our level of comfort when it comes to personal contact. I'm not Muslim nor Jewish like in your situation, but here is non-religious example of not wanting to be physically touched. I lived with French roommates in college in the United States and found it uncomfortable when they tried to do air kisses as a greeting with me. I asked them politely not to do it with me and they respected that. I felt that kisses (even air kisses) should be reserved between significant others and not used as a casual greeting. I didn't think less of my roommates, but I just realized that we have cultural differences when it came to physical contact. Similarly, I would think that the Director not wanting to shake your hand has nothing to do with how he views you as human being, but rather shows you the rules or preferences he abides by.

But if you feel as though you cannot be impartial in the study given your reaction to the Director of the Research Lab's action of not shaking your hand, the right answer to recuse yourself from participating.

I also found this Medium article written by a Muslim woman useful perspective on the situation.

2
  • Thank you for the article. It gave me a valuable perspective on not taking it personally. Nov 22 '18 at 1:44
  • I went ahead and accepted your answer because now that I have had a chance to look at all the links you offered, I have much better understanding of the varied religious reasons someone might have for declining contact and don't feel like it was such a personal attack. Nov 22 '18 at 2:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .