May 1999 - Respect
What is Respect in the Workplace?
We define Respect as Respect of self and of others. Respect includes: respect for the environment; respect for other people's privacy, their physical space and belongings; and respect for different viewpoints, philosophies, religion, gender, lifestyle, ethnic origin, physical ability, beliefs and personality.
We chose the topic for this month several weeks ago as a continuing look at the qualities we believe are essential to healthy workplaces. It seems even more fitting given the recent events in Colorado that we take a moment to re-consider how important respect is to people who work together.
Respect starts at the beginning
Learning respect obviously starts at home, where as small children we take on what our parents teach us. Later, as we enter school, we are influenced by many others. When we enter the working world, we learn about company cultures. Since not all families and schools teach children the full benefits of learning respect, all of us can learn as adults to be more respectful of ourselves and others. Sometimes we have to undo our early training, other times we can build upon what we learn.
In order to be able to enjoy the respect of others, we must first have respect for our self. That means that we recognize that we are a person worthy of respect. It means we don't make jokes or negative remarks that demean our abilities, our skills, our looks or other aspects of our self. It means that we don't make jokes or negative remarks about the ability, skills or other attributes of others.
We must remember that each person in the world has a valuable role to fulfill, whether we agree with their way of doing it or not. If their way of living interferes with the way we view the world, we must negotiate reasonable ways to work with them or find a different space to occupy, not condemn them for being who they are. This aspect of respect is a challenge for many people. However, with diligence, we can learn to be free from judgment and learn to accept that everyone has right to exist.
The Tyrannical or Abusive Boss:
Example: A boss constantly criticizes our work, using very negative and derogatory words about everything we do. Should we respect him/her because they are "the boss"?
In this case, if we accept that the "boss" is better than we are and we "deserve" to be treated badly, we are showing lack of respect for our self. This is not a healthy situation by any means.
First, we must remember that we deserve to be treated without abuse regardless of the quality of our work. If we know our work is very good and it is still being overly criticized, we are allowing ourselves to be demeaned unnecessarily. If our work is of lower quality than is desired, we may need help in learning how to do better. We still deserve respect.
We have some basic choices when faced with an abusive situations:
We love the company, but . . .
Example: We love the company and the work we do. The company enjoys good profits and the people work hard to make the company successful. A new person joins the company who is very critical of everyone else, constantly harping on the way things are done and generally being disagreeable about everything and every one.
In this case, the culture is healthy but a single person with an unhealthy outlook can contaminate it. If this person is a manager or executive, they can do a lot of damage very quickly. If they are a non-management employee, their influence is less powerful but still unhealthy.
In this situation, someone (preferably direct supervisor) should have a very blunt talk with them and their ability to fit into the company's culture. They may suggest some specific training to teach the person how to work better with the others in the company. This training must be reviewed and the person's behavior monitored to make sure they change in appropriate ways.
If they cannot adapt to the company culture, they must be moved out of the company so that they do not poison a healthy environment. Notice that helping them to leave shows respect for the people who are working hard, without disrespect for the person who does not fit it. We do not need to make them wrong for being who they are, simply let them know that their behavior is not appropriate in our situation.
We respectfully disagree . . .
Example: Someone we work with is adamant about how to market the widgets our company makes. We strongly believe there is a "better" way to handle the marketing.
What to do before we destroy our ability to work together?
First of all, remember that each person's views and opinions are their own, developed from their own experience, their own skills and their view of the world. That makes them right for them, but not necessarily right for others. When people are willing to listen to others and realize this simple point, they can learn to appreciate the other person's views, even though they may never agree on what is "best".
A compromise is required by everyone involved. One way to do this is in a group session where each person can share their views without criticism. Then the group can consider which if the ideas to implement, which to consider for later and which ones need more research or development. If no one is made to feel their ideas are wrong, the group can benefit from the active participation of all members of the team.
This scenario can work in the same for any subject that people disagree on. No one has to change their own views or opinions, nor do they need to force theirs onto anyone else. Yet, everyone can learn by listening with respect to what each person has to say. This must be done without judgment, without anger and without disrespect of the other person.
In the example of marketing widgets, the company might decide to do a pilot test of several different methods and test the effectiveness of each before making a major commitment. Or, they might combine some of the ideas into a different marketing strategy all together.
By showing respect for others and listening, we can increase our own ability to think creatively, clearly and effectively. Rarely does everyone agree on how to do something, so we can each learn something new if we are willing to listen and be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Stubbornly refusing to listen to others, insisting that things only be done our way or believing our way is the only right way is a symptom of weakness, not a symbol of strength. Even if we can't see it ourselves, everyone around us can. When you catch yourself needing to be right or needing to be in control, imagine that there is a big sign over your head telling the world what a fool you are. You can't see it but the rest of the world can.
Remember, Stubbornness and Arrogance are two of the 7 deadly personality dragons. They will try their best to hide themselves from you. Most other people can see them clearly even when you can't.
This item was reported in the Orange County Register's Business Section on May 3, 1999:
"Employees don't leave jobs because of company performance; they leave because of their bosses. That's the finding of new research from the Gallup Organization.
"As part of a multiyear research project, Gallup identified good relationships between employees and supervisors as one of 12 key factors that consistently correlate with "quality" workplaces.
"Gallup defines a quality workplace as one that produces high levels of employee retention, customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. <emphasis added>
"Gallup studied more than 80,000 managers during the course of its research and found that being a good manager means:
Note: The study is explained in more detail in newsletter article: August 1999 - It's the Manager....
Immanuel Kant on Respect:
Related newsletter article: August 1999 - It's the Manager....
Subject: Recent Events
In the last week, I've had discussions with several people about the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado and how we, as concerned spiritual leaders, can help deal with the wide ripple effects of such incidents in our society. As parents, teachers, community leaders, spiritual leaders, family members and concerned citizens, how many of us have asked "how could this have happened" and "could this happen to me/my family/my community"? I woke up this morning with this on my mind and wanted to share some thoughts that have finally made their way out of my sub-conscious into my conscious mind.
First and foremost, we must refrain from judging those involved - whether the police, the teachers, the school district; the students who initiated this horrible event, their parents or peers; the other students involved and the media. Judging them harshly and criticizing them for whatever actions they did or did not do cannot help anyone. The deed is done and we cannot undo it.
What can help is to try to understand what might have set the stage for such an event and look at how we as a society, we as community leaders and we as parents and teachers can make a difference so that such events do not re-occur.
As parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents, teachers, coaches or others involved with young people, we can talk to children and teenagers about these events, then listen to their views. We must be willing to hear them with our heart as well as our ears. We must be willing to hear their pain, confusion and fears that something similar might happen to them, their friends, their school or their family. And, we must be willing to be involved in helping them come to some resolution of what steps might be advisable should they encounter situations that have the potential to become violent situations. We must be willing to help them develop coping strategies that could save their life or the life of their friends should they find themselves in any violent situation.
We must be willing to fulfill our role as "elders" in teaching our young people right from wrong and making sure that their learning experiences are giving them the values that we want to teach. This involves paying attention to the television programs they watch, the video games they are allowed to play, the way they treat others at home and outside the home, the way they use the Internet and the type of behavior we demonstrate to them in the way we conduct our own lives. We must be aware of the influence of drugs, alcohol and weapons they may encounter and be willing to face the possibility that our children could be involved. We cannot pretend that it can't happen to us — it happens every day to parents who never thought it could happen in their family.
We must be willing to help create laws and protections for our citizens that do not destroy our historic value on individual freedom. This is a major challenge for our society, since freedom is a core US value, as is the right to bear arms. We cannot over-react to one incident by destroying that foundation in hasty reaction.
We must also find a way to have compassion for those who were personally touched by this tragedy, including the parents of the young men who caused it. The comment by one set of parents — "we loved our son as much as we knew how to love a child" — screams with the heart-break and agony they must feel to have played a role in this tragic event.
I cannot fully appreciate what they must feel. As a parent of two wonderful sons who have grown into caring, considerate men, I feel blessed and grateful every day that they are who they are. Especially seeing how disappointed some of my friends are in their children who developed into someone they no longer understand. Some folks who are knowledgeable in such things, suggest that these 2 boys were Nazis in their former life, blindly dedicated to an ideal that wanted to destroy any who were not like them — cold, unloving, heartless individuals reborn into this country and still carrying the memories of that former life over into this one, which could not be erased by current parental and societal influence or genetics.
Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, I think it is safe to say that there are so many factors that play into any person's development that we can never be sure we ever fully understand what might motivate someone to do what those 2 boys did. We are left to wonder "why?" ... "why me?" or "why not me?"
What we know about violence in the workplace and in our society is that the people involved usually react out of fear, often terror. Work situations that are unhealthy, disrespectful of employees, where people are verbally abused day in and day out, are breeding grounds for violence, injuries and on-the-job accidents, harassment cases, discrimination cases, high employee turnover, high employee sickness, lawsuits, product failures, and much more. We have seen research supporting this and done our own surveys that demonstrate the links between unhealthy corporate cultures and high numbers of injuries on the job, and the links between healthy, productive corporate culture with low number of injuries on the job.
What I would like to ask this group to consider is this: how can we — as people who have impact on others — help make our society and our workplace a safer place to be? Many on this list have shared what they are doing already. I'd like to ask each one of us to think about what else we might BE AS AN EXAMPLE, what we might DO or what we might SAY, that would help soften the harshness in our society and our workplace, and how we might increase the humanity and gentleness of the area that we influence. You may share those thoughts or ideas here if you feel inclined so that others might learn from them.
I apologize for the length of this message and look forward to hearing from anyone who would like to add to the dialog.
Page updated: June 05, 2009
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