How to Build a More Respectful Workplace

There appears to be an erosion of respect throughout our society, especially in the workplace. I define respect as acknowledging the value of another and acting accordingly. Because I believe respect is an action word, we must treat each other as if we matter, because we all do, regardless of our current situation. This is important in the workplace because there seems to be a growing number of people, often those at higher organizational levels, who believe that they, and maybe their peers, are the only ones who contribute “real value” to their employer’s success. Some even believe that those at lower levels are less valuable, therefore less worthy of respectful treatment. This presents a number of challenges that affect an organization’s ability to leverage fully its employees’ talents and its employees’ ability to find fulfillment through their work.

Many years ago, I was told, and became convinced, that, “There’s real beauty in simplicity.” So, to deal with this lack of respect, I decided to devise a simple way to identify the basis for our respect for others. This led me to develop what I call the Concept of the Four Cs. In essence, I deduced that there are four words that begin with the letter “C” that govern our life, and the first two of these words form the basis for our respect.

Chance – The first of the four words suggests that all of us, without exception, arrive in this world by Chance. We were not “accidents,” but none of us had anything to do with being born. Our parents decided if, when, where, etc., we would be born, and we played no role in that decision.

Circumstances – The second word suggests that each of us was born into and “grew up” within certain Circumstances. Our home locale, family situation, number of siblings, education, career, etc., were unique to us, characterize our “up-bringing,” and represent the journey we traveled to get to the present. They include all the people and things that affected our lives, in both positive and negative ways. It is clear that the journey each of us traveled has shaped the person we have become.

The Past – The Chance of our birth and the Circumstances of our life to this point describe our past. We can “tell our story” by using these first two Cs. Bahá’u’lláh, the father of the Baha’i Faith, has a wonderful quote entitled, “The Potential of Man and the Importance of Education:”

“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”

The first sentence says that each of us is precious, and the “gems of inestimable value” can be found in our story about the journey we traveled to get to the present. However, the second sentence says that the only way we can find those “gems” is to listen to each other’s story as learners, not judges. That is, we must hear, without judgment, what another is sharing with us. When we do this, we always find something precious about another, something worthy of our respect. By hearing the story, we learn that what makes each of us precious may have little to do with our education, position title, salary, etc., but more to do with the person we have become. These “gems of inestimable value” make each of us capable of remarkable contribution and achievement.

I believe this is the foundation upon which respect is built. We can start with the assumption that all employees are there because they have value to contribute. We acknowledge their value and treat them as if they matter, because they all do, regardless of their Circumstances. This results in the workplace being transformed in very positive and lasting ways, resulting in:

  1. The employer getting more committed and energized employees; and
  2. The employees being able to pursue fulfillment through their work and “feel good about Monday mornings” again.

The last two Cs, Choice and Consequences, relate more directly to the future and the “power” we can claim in creating the future of our choice. These will be explored in more detail in a future post.

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