Is Your Workplace Plagued by Disrespect? Take This Step to Disarm It
NAME-CALLING. Stereotyping. Micromanaging. Foul language.
Is your workplace a hotbed of disrespect—and are productivity and collaboration tanking because of it?
When co-workers, managers, and their subordinates lose respect for one another, it negatively impacts their work and the work of the people around them. Some organizations respond with well-meaning exhortations to “just get along,” or they encourage private chats with human resources or senior management. Yet quite often, there’s no action taken at all.
If someone’s disrespectful behavior crosses a policy or legal line, there may be an investigation followed by disciplinary action, interventional coaching, a lateral transfer, demotion, or termination. Or—once again—there may be nothing done at all.
Is there a better way to address and curb disrespect at work? Without a doubt, yes.
At the Center for Respectful Leadership, we believe that Coaching for Respect™ (CfR) is something every organization should consider trying first (even if they rule it out) before moving to more formal, investigative, disciplinary, or legal remedies.
At the core of this process is a simple question: What do you respect in the other person?
We’ve found that when co-workers clash over disrespectful behavior or language, what they do respect in their colleagues isn’t completely obscured. It’s just being overridden by intense negative feelings and emotions.
Once the “what happened”—the intentions, actions, impacts, and perceptions—are uncovered and explored through coaching and rational discussion, what people respect in each other is much easier to see. And their work environment will improve because of it.
Three Common Areas of Respect
Typically, what we respect in our work colleagues falls into three areas or attributes:
- Knowledge and experience (and position attained as a result)
- Talents and skills
- The way a person treats us and others.
By having people identify precisely what they respect in others, they’ll start to break down hardened perceptions, such as an employee labeling a colleague as a “disrespectful person” or the accused suggesting the aggrieved party is “too sensitive” or “a complainer.”
Ideally, you’re trying to get the sparring parties to identify something they respect that relates to their work together. For example, an aggrieved employee may respect a particular skill the accused has and understand that without it, their own work will be much harder, or impossible, to accomplish.
Be warned: This can be a challenging process. Strong, negative feelings make some people resistant to seeing offenders in anything but a negative light. You’re going to have to work hard here and be persistent, respectfully, of course!
Ask for Specifics
Ask the parties to specifically name the traits and attributes they respect in each other. What events, times, and places have showcased these traits in the past?
Don’t accept “There’s nothing I respect in them” as a final answer because if you do, you won’t be able to move forward with the process.
Here are some approaches and opening lines you might use:
- What would you say the organization values in this person?
- Have you witnessed your colleague doing quality work? Tell me more about it.
- Have you witnessed your teammate treating others well?
- Do your co-workers respect this person? If so, why?
- Looking at their knowledge, experience, talents, or skills, is there anything you respect—even a little bit?
- How would you answer these questions if you could set aside your feelings?
The bottom line: We don’t have to like a person to work with them, but we do have to have a level of respect for them. Without respect between co-workers, it’s almost impossible to work effectively and productively.
Identifying respected traits and attributes is just one step of Coaching for Respect.™ If you have colleagues who have fallen out with each other due to perceived disrespectful behaviors—and if you have the willingness, the positional authority, and the patience to try something supportive and collaborative first—the CfR process may be exactly what’s needed to turn that relationship around.
Gregg Ward is the founder and executive director of the Center for Respectful Leadership and a highly sought-after speaker, facilitator, and executive coach. He’s the author of the award-winning bestseller The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways to Influence Without Intimidation and its follow-up release, Restoring Respect. Learn more at RestoringRespectBook.com.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:12 AM
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