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Respect at work


Respect at workRespect is in many organisations a core value, but how can you explain something this essential to you colleagues? Respect is hard to explain because we are used to be treated with respect. My experience at a construction site to taught me that respect at work starts with treating each other as equals, open communication and sharing information. This in order that your colleagues can think along and take initiative. You steer on results and now the ‘how’.

Respect is something many organisations have in their core values, but what does it actually mean? Many times I have tried to find the correct formulation and an example that suits, but we were always stuck after the “for getting respect, you first need to give respect” tagline.

Respect is hard to explain because we are used to be treated with respect. It was only after doing something completely else, that I experienced what it was to be treated without respect. That’s why it’s hard to explain respect from my current employment because I have almost always been treated with respect. But sometimes I come in a completely other environment. One where I don’t have prior knowledge or training. One where I don’t have acquired experience in the field. It is a construction site. At my home or at a site where friends or family are building or redecorating their house.

On a construction site, I’m a newbie. The palms of my hands don’t lie: I’m used to desk work. On a construction site I have the knowledge of a newbie and I act as a newbie. Surrounded by experienced experts I do my best to help and assist. In some cases I’m treated with respect, in other cases I’m not.

Some examples of being treated without respect:

  • When I don’t do my work good enough, work is taken out of my hands and done by the lead himself.
  • I cannot understand the professional because he uses jargon I don’t know.
  • When I don’t know something, the professional acts as if it’s common knowledge and I’m missing out.
  • Knowledge and information is only shared if really needed and only at the time needed.
  • The professional is telling me in every detail exactly what to do instead of allowing me to fill in my work myself.
  • I’m only told the next step in line and don’t know how the end result should look like. This makes it impossible to think along, find solutions and take initiative.

To summarize the above, the other party is not treating me as an equal. I’m happy to admit that all of this didn’t occur on one occasion, but is mere a summary of everything I experienced during the years. I must also admit that in some cases I was ready to heat my head against the wall.

So how should you treat your colleagues with respect?

  • Treat them as an equal. (this is were our first punch line “give respect to receive” dissolved)
  • Keep communication open and share information.
  • Offer the opportunity to think along.
  • Offer the space to take initiative.
  • Steer on output (results) and not on input (the ‘how’).
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