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How to Respect a Person's Dignity in the Workplace

by Jill Leviticus

Work is much more enjoyable at a company that respects and values its employees. In a respectful workplace, employees treat each other with dignity, regardless of position or personal beliefs. Identifying several factors that can influence respect will help ensure that you treat co-workers appropriately.

Manners Matter

In a busy office, it’s hard not to be distracted. Phones ring and deadlines loom, which can make it difficult to give your co-worker the attention she deserves when she comes to you with a question or problem. Let voicemail take care of your messages and give your full attention to your colleague. Don’t assume you know what she’s going to say and cut her off. Avoid making faces or rolling your eyes when she talks, even if you don’t agree with her assessment or feel that the matter is trivial. The “U.S. News and World Report Money” website advises that your co-workers might be inspired to speak to you in a respectful, positive way when you treat them the same way.

Keep Your Lips Sealed

Gossip can quickly ruin working relationships. Don’t spread or start gossip, even if you’ve seen or heard a particularly juicy piece of information. You might not understand the situation or context of the conversation and might damage the person’s reputation by repeating what you saw or heard. Once others hear the gossip, they might ostracize or mock the person. Avoid all types of gossip -- both workplace and personal. It’s difficult to have privacy in an office, particularly if you work in a cubicle or in an open office. If you learn that the employee in the next cubicle has financial or marital problems, it’s best to keep that information to yourself.

Embrace Diversity

You’re likely to meet people at work from a variety of races, sexes, ages, ethnic backgrounds and religions. Although these people aren’t exactly like you, you might find they have valuable experience and insights if you take the time to get to know them. It might take a little extra effort to include everyone. In some cases, you might have to draw out a reticent employee, particularly if she’s been ignored or belittled by other employees in the past.

Lead with Respect

Treating people with dignity is especially important if you’re a supervisor. Your words and actions have a tremendous impact on the way your employees feel about themselves and their value to your department. If you must correct or reprimand an employee, do it behind closed doors and don't discuss the issue with anyone else. Be sure to point out positives and show appreciation to employees for good work. Don’t impose drastic changes without employee input and discussion. Although it might be necessary to make a change, such as changing work hours, employees are much more likely to adjust to the new schedule if you involve them in the process and listen to their suggestions and concerns.

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