I’ve spent the last several months facilitating respect in the workplace training to various organizations, discussing strategies to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination. I’ve extracted some incredibly rich lessons from the employees and managers who participated in these trainings which I believe are useful guidance for HR professionals moving into the New Year.
Every training was kicked off by asking a simple question, “What does respect mean to you?” The majority of time I was met with silence and blank stares. While occasionally someone would break the ice by launching into Aretha Franklin’s Respect, most of the time the participants would look uncomfortably at one another unsure how to answer.
At first blush, it seems like a simple response, but I completely understand the hesitancy of the participants or the perceived variance in responses. However, once the conversation started, there was one simple definition that we could all agree on – treat others as you wish to be treated.
As the conversation transitioned to diversity and its impact in a workplace, we discussed different work styles, educations, family or cultural upbringing, and personal and professional goals. It got me thinking…should we really be treating others exactly as we wish to be treated?
Aside from the shared interest in the organization we work for, most of our coworkers are very different and don’t actually want or need the same things out of their professional careers. For example, consider the colleague who is dedicated and hard-working, but is also quiet and somewhat introverted in the office. Would she want to be publicly praised during a staff meeting and asked to speak in front of the group spontaneously? Probably not. On the other hand, you may have colleagues who thrive in the spotlight and are motivated by public recognition.
As managers and employees, we must take a hard look and evaluate what motivates our staff and colleagues. Consider everyone’s differences and how can we build strengths from these differences.
Through all of the extensive discussions on this topic, I have learned that respect is really about being aware and sensitive of each other’s differences. It doesn’t mean we should completely disregard the “Golden Rule,” but rather challenge each other to think beyond and treat everyone as unique individuals. Sometimes, this means treating others a little differently than how we would prefer to be treated
As we close out 2016, consider making a New Year’s resolution of treating everyone with individual kindness and respect. This “twist” on the Golden Rule can help you build stronger relationships in the workplace and, in turn, keep your colleagues, managers, and peers motivated, happy, and energized throughout the year and serve as a foundation for a truly respectful workplace.