When I published my most recent book, The Respectful Leader, in 2016, employee surveys were giving us early warning signals of disrespectful behavior increasing in the workplace. Leading up to the U.S. presidential election, the political climate and the amount of incivility in public discourse continued to heat up. Shortly afterward, disrespect started to rocket upwards in the workplace.
Over the past few months, debates have escalated over gun control, healthcare, immigration, sexual harassment, and other issues. With political divides seemingly at an all-time high, it can often feel like all respect is lost amid the tension. So what’s the secret to keeping things together beyond our boiling point and rebuilding respect at work?
If we are going to successfully address this issue, we have to first understand that disrespect comes from an emotional place. We are human. Sometimes we lose our cool and get short with each other, especially when we feel passionate about current events and other issues. Tension and resentments from these eruptions can often linger for months, even years. Over time, a loss of respect may become painfully evident in the subtext of your daily interactions with those caught in the crossfire.
I was recently invited on ABC’s “Good Morning Washington DC” program to discuss this all too common predicament and shared a six-step process for rebuilding respect at work.
- Admit it! Admit that respect has been lost and the relationship is broken. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step to solving it.
- Agree to do something. Working together under disrespectful conditions is no fun for anyone and productivity suffers as a result. Commit to clearing up misunderstandings and agree to work together towards a solution.
- Know It takes two to tango. Relationships are two-way streets. Stop finger pointing and acknowledge that each party played some role in the loss of respect.
- Own your stuff. Looking at your own bad behavior isn’t easy, but essential when rebuilding respect with others. Be willing to take responsibility for your own disrespectful behavior and apologize for it.
- Look for things to respect. Identify and share things about the other person that you do respect (usually in the areas of their knowledge, experience, skills, and talents) and build on these positive aspects to help you navigate through the rough spots.
- Agree on a framework for the future. Come up with a mutually agreed upon strategy, including expected behaviors for working together successfully and communicating in the future, so that you don’t put each other on the defensive.
If you’d like a consultation about rebuilding respect at work and how you can help transform your company culture into a supportive, positive work environment, send me a note. I’d be happy to help.