Memphis Business Journal.Organizations, Individuals Influence Respectful Workplace Interaction
Friday, April 1, 2011Organizations, individuals influencerespectful workplace interactionMemphis Business Journal - by Barbara RichmanSince the workplace is a reflection of society at large, we see a gamut of behaviors thatdemonstrate a lack of respect and civility within today’s organizations. These disrespectful anduncivil behaviors take a toll on employees, customers and the overall organization. Unlesschanges are initiated to counter these trends, decreased productivity, commitment and profits areamong the results that can be anticipated.Instituting positive change requires a focus on eliminating disrespectful behaviors, such asrudeness, cursing, angry outbursts, gossiping, acting or speaking condescendingly, cliquishness,bullying and harassment. It also requires attentiveness to reinforcing behaviors that arerespectful, such as listening, inclusion, conflict prevention and resolution, integrity,courteousness and responsiveness.While there are no magic wands that can be waved to create desired results instantaneously, thereare actions that employers and individuals can take to influence respectful and civil workplaceinteractions. Employers can establish a culture in which respect and civility are incorporated intothe organization’s values; develop behavioral expectations; provide training; and ensure thatthose in leadership positions act as role models.Individuals can take steps that include the following to accomplish these objectives:1. Develop an awareness of personal triggers that have the potential to create anger or frustration.Take measures to prevent and eliminate those within your control. Look for ways to resolveinterpersonal issues and build more productive workplace relationships.2. Apply self restraint when faced with stressful situations. Pause before reacting. Choose to actin a manner that demonstrates respect for others, maintains self respect and accomplishes overallobjectives.3. Be specific when there is a need to describe behaviors that require change. Generalizations,such as telling others what they have always or never done, will lead to defensive reactions andnot accomplish intended results.
4. Treat others respectfully on a consistent basis, even at times when you do not believe thatrespect is warranted. Handle employment actions, including discipline and termination, in amanner that enables those involved to maintain a sense of self worth and dignity.5. Base employment-related decisions on facts rather than assumptions, stereotypes, or othernon-objective factors. An analysis of relevant facts increases the accuracy of your decisions anddecreases the potential of damaged workplace relationships and legal liabilities.6. Create an environment that values individual differences and perspectives. Take advantage ofopportunities to encourage diverse opinions.7. Be respectful in all aspects of your communications. Assess your effectiveness in areas, suchas tone of voice, words, body language and listening. Also focus on your telephone, e-mail andother written communications, recognizing that communicating is more difficult when visualcues, such as body language, are missing.8. Use humor selectively and only when it will not result in disrespect toward others. Whilehumor can provide an opportunity to relieve stress and create a positive work environment, italso can be offensive and a potential source of harassment if directed at others or otherwise usedinappropriately.9. Guard against gossiping or making negative comments about individuals who are not presentby asking yourself if you would make the same remarks if they could hear what you are saying.Before engaging in these types of conversations, remember that they can harm workplacerelationships and create a sense of distrust. Be mindful of the Spanish proverb, “Whoever gossipsto you will gossip about you.”10. Recognize that others’ time is as important as yours. Stay focused when engaged in activities,such as attending meetings, sending and responding to e-mails, and talking on the phone.Respect deadlines. Let others know in advance if unanticipated situations create a need forextensions.11. Apply a solution-driven approach to resolve conflicts. Avoid unproductive actions, such asbecoming defensive, name calling, or making accusations. Identify and examine alternatives toreach resolution. Continuously keep your overall objectives in mind.12. View difficult situations from a broader perspective by considering what they mean in theoverall scheme of things. Reflect on how you will view these circumstances from a futurevantage point, such as a week, month or year later.13. Take responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge mistakes rather than shifting the blame toothers.14. Avoid attempts to advance your views or status at the expense of others. Understand thatthese types of comments and actions are often transparent to those present and will reflectnegatively on your professional image.
15. Monitor your communications and actions regularly to gauge your success in demonstratingrespect and to identify opportunities for improvement. Remember that sustained results requireintent.16. Become a role model for respectful and civil interactions in your workplace. Consistentlyinfluence interactions by demonstrating respect for others, the organization and yourself.BARBARA RICHMAN is a senior consultant with HR Mpact, a Memphis human resourceconsulting firm. She can be reached at (901) 685-9084, (901) 496-0462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.