How to treat others with respect

treating comic

No one is perfect at respecting others all the time, but we all can agree that we can all increase how we respect others.

Respect is many things. It is an awareness and understanding of how that person wants to be treated. For example, I worked with a Muslim man who needed to pray several times a day, and respect for him was a place where he could pray and not be disturbed. When I worked with vegetarians, respect for them was having meals that they could enjoy in a group/team setting. When I worked with people with physical limitations it was accommodations so that they could work.

Those may be obvious but what is less obvious about respect is also respecting someone’s mental boundaries. There are people who are neurodivergent and need to be respected in ways that they can share with others. For example, some people need special consideration with sound, color, lighting, and so on. (Isn’t this another reason for WFH and why not allowing WFH discriminates against neurodiverse people?)

Another part of respect is staying focused on what is truly needed at work. In a misguided attempt to promote teamwork, some companies promote the idea that people need to be “family” or “friends” with the people they work with. While this can be nice if you feel that way about others, you can’t force this kind of socialization on people. Many people have their social needs met outside of work and don’t need to socialize more than is required to do their jobs. Of course, you can do small talk and show a sincere interest in others, but you don’t need to do more than that. When companies expect and penalize people for not being part of social occasions like drinking at a bar after work or joining the softball league, it isn’t about a fault with that person. There is a point where people have the right to disengage with people they spend the majority of their day with, and engage with people they choose to spend time with. This doesn’t make them less of an employee but more of a parent, partner, or whatever other role they feel is important for them.

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Respect is not only what you do, but also what you don’t do. Respectful people don’t micromanage others. They don’t assume things but ask questions to understand a situation. They imagine themselves in that person’s position and ask themselves if they might make a similar choice. If they wouldn’t make a similar choice, they remind themselves that everyone is free to live their life in any way that is legal. They don’t push their values, morality or concepts of what people “should” do onto others. They don’t seek to try to limit, change or act like their parent. They see others as their equal and in some cases superior in terms of knowledge or experience. If you can’t honestly state that every day others are superior to us in many ways, you are not only deluded but not appreciating and respecting the talent of those around you.

We don’t have to be perfect to be respectful. We just have to do our best to be sensitive that others are not like ourselves and that is ok.