I believe in the value of RESPECT, so when the opportunity is right, I strive to exchange valuable feedback with an uplifting tone that fosters continuous learning and growth in myself and others.
As an organizational coach, how I lead and develop others is deeply grounded in a number of beliefs that guide my actions every day. For example, I carry a strong belief that all workplace professionals deserve to be treated with respect. Experience has shown that a respectful workplace cultivates collaboration and continuous improvement, which leads to the high performance teamwork needed to thrive in a complex and competitive marketplace.
Besides … in a professional workplace, who wants to be treated disrespectfully anyway? Not you. Not me. Not anyone. Right?
Do you Work in a Disrespectful Workplace?
To make a point, I enter this post with a darker slant on respect. My journey has allowed me to witness organizations that are shockingly-disrespectful environments. I’ve encountered them a number of times during my travels. I hope you aren’t working in one of these organizations – but if you are, my goal is to inspire you to influence your organization to change.
To set the tone, here are a couple of real cases of disrespect (beyond being rude and mean to others):
Showing up late for a meeting without explaining “why”:
Hey everyone, I’m here now. What did I miss?
Committing time to a meeting and changing that commitment during the meeting; once again, without explaining “why”:
Hey everyone, I can only give an hour of my time for this 1/2 day session, so I will be stepping out at X.
Why are these situations considered disrespectful? Imagine that you’ve committed your time to a 1/2 day brainstorming session and your skill and knowledge are expected to be an essential part of that meeting. Everyone has prepared extensively in advance to make sure the meeting will achieve its outcomes and the entire Team is in the room, prepared, energized and ready to jump into the meeting’s purpose.
If I announce to the rest of the Team that I can only give an hour of my time (after committing to the entire 1/2-day), it shows a lack of respect for everyone else’s time, energy and dedication. In addition, if I don’t explain “why”, then it implies that the other people in the meeting are not valued and/or are not considered important enough in the organization.
Does this happen in your organization? To deepen the question further, do these cases mean that the person is disrespectful or the organization is disrespectful…or both? How do you see it?
An Example of Respect on Display
Work travel recently carried me into a big company – where, on a dreary Monday morning – I visited one of the break rooms and started navigating around a worker who was cleaning the room and emptying the trash. As we exchanged glances, I could sense that person’s struggles – a tough, thankless, low-paying job indeed. I also saw this hard-working soul briefly gaze at the window as it clouded up from the rainy conditions – a discouraging frown forming on his face.
In that moment, I gently introduced myself and thanked this person for his hard work, relating to him my self-proclaimed job as the “kitchen cleaner” at home. We jointly discovered light humor in the mundane aspects of this work, and how it often goes without any appreciation — at work and home alike. As our conversation continued, I witnessed a remarkable transformation as this person’s discouraging frown dissolved, and a radiant smile emerged.
What happened? Through a brief and empathetic exchange, I helped him discover that his work makes a positive impact in a lot of people’s lives, and simply showed him some genuine appreciation for his service. I was humbled by his smile and the high-five he offered me on the way out.
As you digest that real-world situation, I invite you to reflect on the following questions for your own learning & growth:
What does it mean to believe something?
How do your beliefs direct your actions?
The manner in which you and others interact in your company is a direct reflection of your organization’s core beliefs and behaviors; i.e., your company culture.
An organization’s culture is often described as “the way we do things around here”. It’s how we treat each other, how we share our opinions & feedback, and other manifested behaviors that are based on a set of beliefs. For example, great leaders are wired with a set of core values that have positive intent, and these very leaders strive to politely and respectfully challenge workplace situations that are in direct conflict with those beliefs.
Before reading on, consider revisiting the two questions above and answer them from a different perspective. What are you learning about your own beliefs, and how might that be changing as you absorb this message?
Do your senior leaders believe in respect for people?
I have found that a corporate culture is directly influenced by executive leaders and how they behave in front of others. What is this like in your organization? Over the years, I have witnessed value-grounded and inspiring leaders on display at many levels in a company (executives, managers and workers alike). I find these situations fulfilling and uplifting. Perhaps this aligns with your own leadership style?
People choose to follow leaders not because of job title, but because of their calm presence and respectful nature.
For every one of those uplifting souls, I’ve also felt the wrath from powerful, big-company executives who believe that their job title makes them more important than everyone else, and so they will do whatever it takes to protect their turf. It’s disheartening, and even worse, it influences good-natured employees to behave in destructive ways that hurt others. I’ve been put in that conflicting position more than once in my earlier career — it was painful. Why? Because these toxic, disrespectful company cultures were in direct conflict with my own belief, which is ………………
Everyone in the professional workplace deserves to be treated with respect.
What kind of leader are you? What are the core beliefs that guide your interactions with others in your workplace?
Even the most grounded leaders will sometimes make a mistake that disrespects others … they’re human … we all make mistakes. But, if they truly believe in respect for people, they will work very hard to catch themselves in the moment and show the courage to authentically apologize for their lapse in judgment.
How can you anchor this belief in your Organization?
I encourage you to take a short break at work and absorb your company’s “Our Core Values” poster that’s plastered around the building and your company’s public website. If respect is not listed, then this is your chance to show great leadership by influencing the organization to add this core belief. Even if it isn’t on display, go forth and live it every single day – from the C-suite to the break room. It starts with you….the next great, respectful leader of today.
What is this like in your organization? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.
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