FOSTERING RESPECT IN THE WORKPLACE
Nearly 13 years ago, my family, and I relocated from the south. Within a few months, I accepted a role within an organization. However, the opportunity was short lived as I recognized early that it was not an environment where I could thrive. There was an incident where I was speaking with a leader within the organization. I was told that I should “invest in a course on public speaking because my southern accent was a distraction.” And apparently, “people from the south are not viewed as intelligent.” This person either did not realize or did not care that this was a direct insult on who I am. In that moment, I was no longer engaged, and had made my decision to resign.
Respect is defined as due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others. This is a powerful workplace tool as we have daily experiences and interactions that demonstrate how diverse we are. It is during these interactions that the presence or absence of respect can make or break professional relationships. The workplace is a microcosm of our societal issues, and we cannot control the mindsets and actions of others. Yet, we can control ourselves and how we respond to those with different beliefs and opinions. The lack of focus in this area will continue to result in the loss of employees, customers and profits.
Organizations can circumvent this deficit with actions to intentionally create inclusive and equitable workplace cultures. To achieve this, organizations must be prepared to expand their current practices and operate in ways that may be uncomfortable. This is not to imply that with these changes conflict and disagreements will no longer exist or we will have workplace utopias. Yet, the growth and benefits are infinite for organizations choosing to make this an area of focus.
The following tips can aid in fostering respect within the workplace:
Willingness to learn- Providing opportunities for employees to learn about the lived experiences of others is key. It is not enough for businesses to have high diversity numbers if the environment does not welcome and leverage the differences.
Equitable People Practices- Working to ensure policies and practices are in place to meet the unique needs of employees is important. Things like implementing floating holidays, gender-inclusive pronouns and language in all communications, gender neutral restroom facilities and implementing paid family leave are some of the ways organizations can demonstrate their commitment.
Consistency is Key- The worst thing to do is overpromise and underdeliver. There are changes that can be implemented quickly and others that will take more time and funding. The key is to stay the course.
Organizations should not focus on changing morals and beliefs. The goal is to elicit behavior changes that are fair and respectful across the board. Everyone deserves civility and respect. The alternative can be expensive for businesses.
Takiyah Cunningham, M.S. HRD