Left unchecked, bullying, gossiping, back-stabbing and other bad behaviors can fly around a workplace like dust in the wind. But all that disrespectful behavior is not good for business and can lead to an atmosphere of distrust, anger and poor productivity. If you're working on creating a more respectful workplace, the place to start is with your own behavior.
Follow the golden rule. You learned to 'treat others the way you want to be treated' as a child, and this still applies in adulthood. When you work in a tight space with other people, you have to be respectful of others. It's the ultimate fallback in almost any situation; when you ask yourself whether you would like to be treated in a certain way, you'll be able to stop -- or start -- certain behaviors.
Learn something about your co-workers' cultural and spiritual values. While the golden rule can go a long way, your beliefs and value system may be quite different from your co-workers from another religion, culture, country or region. The first step in this process is to find out something about their background in a friendly, open manner, and then to ask questions or do your own research that can lead to more questions about how to behave appropriately. If you do ask your co-workers to explain their culture or values, be sure to do so in a way that shows you're interested in learning more, and not being rude or trying to verify certain stereotypes.
Praise co-workers when you see them doing good work. Make an effort to praise a different person each day, letting them know you appreciate the job they are doing. Try to focus on job-related praise, as opposed to praising their attire, their musical choices or something unrelated to work. Positive feedback often is contagious, and it can inspire others to continue the trend.
Ask questions instead of making demands, advises the Work Awesome website. Instead of bellowing out orders when you're on a deadline, take that extra second to let the person know why you need a certain thing done, and then ask them politely to do the task. When you speak respectfully to your co-workers, they're likely to do the same for you.
Avoid gossiping or talking about other co-workers behind their backs. You may think your private dish session is only between you and another person, but chances are good that that person will share your stories with others. The last thing you want is a reputation for being the "office gossip." Stay professional when talking about others, and you're less likely to be a topic of gossip yourself.
Deal with problems with co-workers in a calm, professional manner. When you have a problem with someone, talk to them privately about it, letting them know you value your working relationship and you want to find a way to get through the mess. Here again, avoid gossiping about the problem -- talking openly and honestly is more likely to result in a positive outcome. If a problem persists, or if it is too difficult to talk about with the person directly, go to your supervisor and alert them to the problem.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.