Responding to Disrespect

Jim Stroup, one of my new favorite bloggers, riffed off of yesterday’s post about respect. He points out that if we’re going to talk about respect in the workplace, we will have to talk about emotions. The feeling of respect (or disrespect) is primarily emotional. We feel we are not valued, or heard, and it hits right at our self-esteem.

Jim then points out that if you need to address a feeling of disrespect in the workplace, you can’t just focus on saying the right things.

If employees are complaining of getting no respect, perhaps what they are really feeling the lack of is means of, or an opportunity to, contribute. In the face of such general, ill-defined morale problems, then, your job isn’t really to show respect in some essentially patronizing, effusively verbal or showy way, but rather to reorganize the organization in a manner that gives productive expression to your employees’ instinct to contribute.

I agree: don’t design a new "we respect the employees" communication campaign! You have to unpack the source of the disrespect. Jim’s suggestion is around opportunity to contribute. There could be other factors too. But whatever it is, it will be a thorn that won’t stop hurting (and contributing to employee turnover) until you address it. I would predict that addressing it will require EVERYONE to change some behavior in order to get things back into alignment. The answer to disrespect, ultimately is not respect. It is change.