Respect ~ It’s Everyone’s Job: Creating a Respectful Workplace

graphic that says respect: it's everyone's job - creating a respectful workplace

by Tara Powers

This week and next, I am facilitating a workshop on Workplace Respect and Recognizing Stereotypes. In this 2.5 hour session, I focus on raising the level of awareness and commitment on how to address disrespect at work and more importantly how to foster an environment that people feel good about coming to everyday.  Obviously the benefits to creating a respectful workplace are plentiful ~ higher morale, increased productivity, less sick time, stronger team relationships, improved overall satisfaction, employee retention, reduced complaints, healthier employees, and so much more.

What still amazes me is the number of people in these programs who admit in front of their peers that they “just don’t care” or people are “too thin-skinned” or my favorite ~ “if people have a problem with me, they need to have the guts to tell me to my face.”  Where is the personal responsibility in any of these statements?  THERE IS NONE.

Taking personal responsibility to create a respectful environment should be required of every employee that you hire with no exceptions. They should have a clear understanding of what a respectful workplace means to you and what it means to treat a co-worker with respect. If this is a discussion that is waiting to be had, here are a few pointers to help turn around disrespectful communication quickly and without blame.

  1. Practice speaking up in the face of disrespect or stereotypes even if not directed towards you. Some people need more support than others in speaking up. Many times, peers just need one person to speak up to give them the confidence to do it in the future. Remember its about fostering an environment that is respectful so that everyone can benefit.
  2. When you hear a disrespectful comment, assume that people have good intentions. Say so and then let them know the impact of their comment. Ex. “I know you meant to be funny, but that comment hurt me.”
  3. If you are surprised by someone’s comment, ask them about it. Ex. “What did you mean by that?” or “Why would you say that?”
  4. Use humor to redirect the conversation and switch gears. Ex. “Whoa! Let’s not go there!” or “Yikes! I resemble that remark!”
  5. Just using a simple statement like “that hurt!” will help someone quickly realize that they may have crossed the line. It also gives them the opportunity to apologize.

Most importantly and probably the most difficult ~ Don’t go along to get along.  By remaining silent in the face of disrespect, you are continuing to be a part of the problem and not a champion for change (part of the solution) in creating a more respectful workplace.

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