Today’s workplaces are more diverse than ever with more work being done in teams. To ensure that everyone is working together well, companies need to be inclusive and embrace diversity and individual differences.
The core element behind a diverse and inclusive workplace is respect – each employee giving and receiving respect from other employees, management, customers, and suppliers.
While ethics, anti-discrimination, and harassment training are useful (and needed) to ensure a respectful workplace environment, the daily interactions among employees and between employees and other stakeholders determine the workplace environment and culture.
To foster a respectful work environment, we need to have ourselves and all of our teams keep the following five fundamentals front of mind each and every day.
- Be Kind: The first and most important fundamental is for us to be kind to one another. Each person with whom we interact is a unique individual trying to do his or her job well. As such, they are deserving of our consideration, kindness, and respect.
“It is a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.” Aldous Huxley
- Recognize and Appreciate People’s Contributions: Everyone on our teams works hard, and everyone likes to be recognized and appreciated. We recognize and appreciate someone else’s contributions by complimenting them on their work or by thanking them sincerely when they do good work. Through this, we create positive interactions and improved teamwork that helps build a more respectful culture.
- Watch the Mouth: We need to watch what we say to one another. This means avoiding obscenities and avoiding inflammatory or excessively negative language. This includes labeling or giving nicknames to others. It also means (contrary to what our politicians and media do) toning down the hyperbole (calming the rhetoric). Words, such as “he ripped me a new one”, “we are going to bury them” even when done half-jokingly create a more intensive, stressful and negative workplace.
- Respond, Don’t React: When we immediately react to something someone has said or done, we often are not thinking. Instead, our emotions take over, we inflame the situation, and we make the matter worse. When we respond to something someone has said or done, we pause and think before speaking and acting; our reasoning mind is in control. Our response is more measured and more focused on resolving the situation as opposed to defending our ego. Simple ways to avoid reacting include: not responding at all; counting to five before saying anything; writing an E-Mail and not sending it; or sleeping on it before replying the next day.
- Listen and Think About the Reasons Behind the Words or Actions: Just listening to someone without interrupting is one of the most respectful acts that we can do. Then, if we think about the reasons behind the words that someone else is saying or writing to us, we may gain empathy towards that person and begin to understand why they may be upset or negative. We may appreciate that the person is operating under pressure from an incident at home or from an over-demanding boss. Or, as often happens in contentious interactions, we may understand that the person has made a mistake and is lashing out to either blame us for their error or have us take on the burden of correcting their error. In any event, empathy and a measured response will go a long way towards defusing the situation and keeping the work relationship respectful.