The year 2020 has been unlike any other. COVID-19 concerns, coupled with current social, economic, and political climates have led to tense conversations and sometimes disrespectful workplace interactions. Political views and opinions on social justice have been especially divisive.
We all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, and could benefit from more respect and civility in the workplace. Studies have shown that rudeness and disrespect in the workplace can drastically diminish your team’s engagement and productivity, ultimately undermining your company’s success.
The bottom line is that every person we encounter is unique. We all have different stories, different feelings, and different views of the world based on our diverse upbringings, backgrounds, and belief systems. Sometimes, as a result of these differences, we don’t share the same perspectives on life and ideas. And that’s ok. But how can we promote mutual respect and civility despite our differences in opinion?
Here are five concepts you can use to help build respect in the workplace:
- Mutual Respect Does Not Mean Agreement - Respect is defined as the acknowledgment of another person’s humanity, honoring who they are regardless of their beliefs and opinions. How do we achieve this in a real-life setting? By having an open mind, finding common ground and avoiding judgment.
- Have an Open Mind - Listening with an open mind and not making things personal builds mutual respect and trust between you and your colleague. Trust within a relationship demonstrates you are able to listen to the opinions of others in an effort to connect without automatically tossing them out. Having an open mind also allows us to try to understand opinions and perspectives that differ from ours, and in turn, opens up the invitation for ours to be heard respectfully. You don’t grow and evolve by arguing with others, you grow and evolve by gaining new insights, opinions, and perspectives. You can encourage a civil and respectful conversation by asking questions with the goal of learning why they feel a certain way on a topic.
- Find Common Ground - Instead of starting off every conversation with things that you fundamentally disagree with, find commonalities. When we believe someone’s behavior or opinion is hard to respect, we tend to look at all of the reasons that individual is different than us. This mindset allows us to justify our disrespect for their opinion and sometimes gives us justification to engage in bad behavior ourselves, such as labeling the other person or attacking them and their ideas. Rather than focusing on or emphasizing differences, search for common ground that you may share. When you look for similarities, you have the opportunity to see the other person differently and engage with him or her differently. You see others a little bit more like you see yourself—normal, reasonable, rational people with opinions, ideas, and flaws.
- Avoid Judgement – If we find ourselves unwilling to listen, being critical or always trying to get the last word in, we may be coming from a place of judgment. It is incredibly difficult to respect someone if we are judging them. Focusing on our appreciation of this individual and recognizing the good, whether it be their contributions to the team, work ethic or even just sincere friendship, allows us to shift our energy from defensiveness to receptiveness.
- Know When to Step Away – Sometimes, despite our best efforts to engage in open and respectful dialogue, we are just unable to act respectfully. Knowing when and how to de-escalate and stop a conversation from turning hostile in the workplace is key. If you find yourself getting emotional or triggered, then it’s time to end that interaction. Coming to work should feel like choosing to be part of team, not picking a side. If the conversation isn’t work-related, you can always indicate that you are not comfortable continuing to participate in the conversation.
Ultimately, if our goals are dialogue and meaningful influence, we will only achieve them when the relationship and the conversation is built on mutual respect. We can have deeper, stronger, more meaningful relationships if we learn to respect differences and communicate from a place of appreciation, non-judgment and mutual purpose.