R is for Respect


Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg
President, Ethics Line, LLC™

Let’s spend a couple of sentences together pondering what “respect” means at work.  Typical definitions speak to us in terms of “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.”  OK.  So what.

Some of you who know me are aware that I am a big fan of Aretha Franklin.  Yes, I admire her.  But I love her music!  And I have been known to quote from her songs in my ethics presentations and even to play her songs during my presentations.  You’ll see another example in the next article in this series, “S is for Supply Chain”.

For now, don’t tell me you have never heard Aretha sing “R_E_S_P_E_C_T, find out what it means to me!” If you haven’t already done it, stop reading and download it to your playlist…and listen to it, often!

What respect means to me, in the business context, is less about how we “feel” and more about how we treat the people we come in contact with.  In companies like most of ours, those people come from many countries, speak many languages, have different family experiences, different educational backgrounds, different skills and talents, different aspirations and ambitions.  In fact, we might as well ask, what do we have in common?  Well, one important thing is that we work for the same organization and have made a commitment to doing the right things the right ways.  It’s called respect – for our customers, their customers and consumers, our suppliers, our regulators and for each other.

In the State of California, in the USA, the government has mandated that we take 2 hours of training every two years, to learn/be reminded how to prevent harassment in the workplace.  The training, generally online, deals with the prevention of sexual harassment, gender bias, bullying and intimidation, to name a few of the subject areas.

A company I know very well has written the concept of respect into its code of conduct.  Every employee gets a printed copy and it’s posted on the public Internet for anyone to read.  It says:

“We treat each of our stakeholders with respect at all times.  That includes respect for our co-workers and the communities in which we operate.  We embrace the diversity of background, experience and family within our organisation (British spelling), ensuring that our company is a place where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.  We treat others as we would like to be treated.”

We might ask “What does a place that does not value respect look like?”  Well, in my earlier article “F is for the other 4 letter F word” that other word is FEAR.  Such places are characterized by a lack of trust and often high turnover is staff.  At one such site I am familiar with, the general manager was a big-time bully.  And in the space of one day there were 9 complaints about him that came through the company hotline.  Following a thorough investigation, the general manager was informed that his services were no longer required!

So how about this.  Send in some examples of your organization (American spelling) and the good ways people demonstrate respect.  I will share them after sanitizing the company name, if that’s what you want me to do.  Thank you!


  1. Respect is notifying, personally all of the internal applicants for a position – in person or by phone, but not by email. They respected you enough to put the energy into preparing and studying the needs of your function or department prior to applying and interviewing. Threat them with dignity and respect.

    Listen with respect when interviewing someone during an investigation. It is no fun to be on that side of the table. You will learn more about the issue by showing respect for the person than by presenting a view of not being objective, or willing to hear their view of the events that triggered the investigation.

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