Invitation for Dignity and Respect in the Workplace

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By John P. Benson, JD, AHFI, CFE, CIFI
CEO, Co-founder of Verisys Corporation
Copyright © 2018 b John P. Benson

Companies are a community of people, not an inhuman corporate beast that chews, ingests and discards individuals. This means we should always operate in a manner that is civil and respectful at a minimum and, hopefully, thoughtful, kind and compassionate all of the time. We should be supporting each other to help each of us achieve personal success as well as success for the company and its customers.

It is obvious that the public discourse has become less than civil and we have people in leadership positions in the business world and in D.C. who have lowered the bar with name-calling, harassment and threats. They are setting a very bad example and behaving like petulant bullies. Their behavior, however, is not permission to behave badly and does not mean it is now okay to behave that way at work, or, in our personal lives. And, further, wearing a badge of honor for no longer being politically correct is a ridiculous notion. Blurting out caustic, racist and denigrating slurs is not and never has been acceptable. There is much to be said for keeping your personal poison to yourself.

It is essential for business leaders to set policy and enforce decorum in the workplace and on the myriad of communication platforms we use when collaborating with our colleagues. Those on the unfiltered denigrating bandwagon need to know that kind of expression is not tolerated. This is not about politics. Political party, religion, gender, gender selection, race, color, height, weight, age, disability, place of origin and sexual orientation are not differentiators—you are free to be who you are, and to do so without fear of discrimination, harassment, being bullied, or the object of gossip or recrimination.

There will always be people in your life whom you may not like, get along or agree with—whether it’s their politics or position on myriad issues we are all confronted with daily. And, no one is asking that you like everyone, but you sure as heck need to treat them as you would have others treat you—with dignity and respect.

I encourage everyone to collectively embrace diversity—it has made us all who we are today. Remember, the differences between any one of us is minute compared to what is shared by all of us. The genetic difference between any two humans is less than 1/10th of 1 percent making us 99.9% genetically identical.

Please bring your best self to work. Strive to be the best contributor, the best colleague, and the best person you can be.

9 COMMENTS

    • Yes. Thank for this article. A hostile work environment affects morale and productivity. I was wrongfully fired for identifying compliance issues.

  1. Great reminder of how important it is to be kind to our fellow humans in the workplace, especially when we are witnessing leadership who have “lowered the bar”.

  2. Enjoyed the article. I think it is important and should be shared with our team members. Our compliance dept has a monthly “in house” newsletter and I would like to get permission to repost this as a part of our news letter. How can I get permissions to do this… we would of course reference where the article came from and include the author’s information .

  3. John – thanks for sharing the Dignity and Respect message. I’m fortunate to be part of a business that has embraced a Dignity & Respect Campaign. By using the concepts of Dignity and Respect to guide our interactions, we enjoy a work environment that is more professional, productive, fun and innovative. Of course, like your message, it has the added benefit of making this a better world for all of us.

  4. This is less an invitation than giving orders to the boss, I guess. What would be more helpful than another description of the problem is concrete actions, advice, recommended behaviors and communication suggestions.

    Like ethics, civility is another vast hole in management education. Learning about wines and liquors is more important than decency.The academics aren’t interested because their customers aren’t interested.

    Civility and decency are totally leadership issues, responsibilities, set by daily behavior and communication example. Civility and decency are often ridiculed as sissy stuff in our current management environment. Try to have a civil conversation about apology for example.

    What is interesting is that those who specialize in combating workplace violence
    are starting to generate data that say a civil workplace is a safer workplace.

    Something worth monitoring.

  5. The workplace environment can be impacted by the behavior of staff amongst each other; there are clear rules, pathways to resolution, training classes, etc. to effectively manage any issues to include discipline if necessary.

    A common occurrence is when people placed in management roles affect, create or force staff to work in an environment defined by their issues and poor behaviors : lack of transparency, little regard for staff, inconsistencies in the very words they speak or document, mismanagement in general, lack of vision, misconduct, lack of experience or skill set, etc. All of which is easily attributed to “his or her management style.”

    Why do we as organizations hold staff accountable, but allow people hired for management roles to violate the rules, core values, code of conduct, etc. Staff who experience toxic environments have little support when a manager is causing or condoning this type of workplace. We will continue to talk about it with little effect until we recognize there is minimal attention given to addressing the shortcomings of the people who were hired to lead. A leader does not affect staff negatively.

    Management styles should not define the workplace. A style is a personal trait that can encompass things we cannot and do not put forth in Code of Conduct or the core values which are clearly defined; there is not caveat to accommodate one’s own personal spin on it. We allow poor leaders to exert their style and personal preferences to affect the workplace environment. We do not hold them accountable unless there is a concrete violation which can be considered criminal acts such as sexual harassment or violent behaviors.

  6. This is an excellent piece. So many in gross darkness have lost their sense of humanity in the treatment of others which ultimately is a testament to how poorly they view themselves.

    And perhaps even worse, so many don’t even understand the concept of humanity, dignity and respect because they’ve never had anyone to show them by example much less sit them down and teach them how to be a decent human being.

    In training, I no longer say “treat people how you would like to be treated” because the bar is so low, literally all over the place and the concept of being decent, a gentleman or a gentlewoman has been largely forsaken. As leaders, we must set the bar, teach it and then ensure compliance.

    This article is an excellent example in teaching it.

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