Workplaces full of sideways glances, whispered gossip and behind-the-back name-calling are hardly pleasant places to be. If your workplace is, much like a high school cafeteria, full of factions and cliques, it is likely not as productive and work-focused as it could be. Regardless of how rife with disrespect your workplace may currently be, you can turn the tide and rebuild the respect. With some simple steps, you can gradually make co-workers feel more respected and, in doing so, likely improve their eagerness to engage in respectful actions in return.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Some of the words and phrases you may use flippantly could offend others. To keep your workplace as respectful as possible, avoid saying anything that could be construed as offensive as you never know who might be in earshot.
Give Co-workers Privacy
Letting your eyes wander onto the screen of the co-worker next to whom you are sitting at a meeting or carefully inspecting an enticing piece of mail that has arrived for a cubicle neighbor may be tempting to the naturally nosey. To make your co-workers feel ultimately respected, however, you should strive to allow them their privacy at all times.
Discuss, Don’t Tell
Talking at people is offensive and disrespectful. Instead of talking at your co-workers or underlings, speak with them, allowing them to be as much an active participant in your discussion as you are. Not only will your communication efforts likely prove more fruitful, your co-workers will also feel ultimately more respected.
Spending days and weeks sharing a workspace with the same group of co-workers will naturally leave you feeling close to these at-work buddies. To maintain a respectful environment, however, you must avoid allowing your perceived closeness to leave you acting like you are bosom buddies. Ask co-workers before you borrow office supplies, make sure that your conversations are business appropriate and avoid overly friendly displays that could leave others feeling uncomfortable, such as hugging.
When your nose is to the grindstone and you are busily trying to get your work done, it is easy to become singularly focused on the papers that clutter your desk, leaving your shut off from co-workers. If you allow this to happen, you may inadvertently appear disrespectful to co-workers who seek some time from you. Make the people that fill your workplace your primary concern as they can feel disrespected if you don’t. The work, on the other hand, has no capacity to feel disrespected and, as such, can wait.
Show that you respect both your co-workers and your work environment by keeping it neat and tidy. A dirty cup left in the sink of the break room for days or a mess left on the washroom vanity can send a disrespectful message, telling others that you don’t care about them or their space.
Recognize Co-workers’ Worth
The world of work can be a thankless place. Increase the happiness of those with whom you share a workplace and make them feel more respected simultaneously by regularly recognizing their worth. Publicly celebrate the strengths of co-workers, speaking positively about their abilities any time you have the opportunity to do so.
Focus on Shared Goals
Allowing your personal goals to drive all of your actions won’t be ultimately productive and can be seen as disrespectful. Success in business is all about working as a team. Making it clear to co-workers that you value them and recognize the importance of teamwork will improve productivity and leave all in the workplace feeling respected.
The degree to which you value someone shouldn’t be dependent upon the individual’s title. As Albert Einstein once famously said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” To be optimally respectful to others, show each and every person in your workplace respect.
Even if you are behaving in a respectful manner, your workplace may not be one characterized by respect if others are being disrespectful. If you witness other co-workers engaging in disrespectful actions that constitute rule-breaking -- such as workplace bullying -- speak up to someone in charge to ensure that this person in a position of power is aware of the problem and, as a result, can take appropriate action.
- Brookhaven National Laboratory: Respect and Civility at Work
- NYS Balance: Maintaining Respect and Civility in the Workplace
- TTG Consultants: The Five Best Ways to Build – And Lose – Trust in the Workplace
- Quality Worklife Quality Healthcare Collaborative: Central Health: Creating and Maintaining a Respectful Workplace
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.