*Editor’s note: this post originally published April 7, 2011 and first appeared on the Politics of the Workplace website.
There are tons of rules in society, some written and some implicit— a red light means stop and most people obey. In the workplace there are established rules of respect as well. For example, if you physically assault someone, steal, or don’t show up for work, it’s likely you will be fired. For the most part, most employees have grasped those rules, but it tends to be the unspoken, often unwritten rules of behavior that cause the most problems in the workplace.
Here are our five tips for creating a respectful interaction in the workplace. These Rules of Engagement are primarily used in our workshops but these rules are so universal they could be adopted and used in a multitude of workplace scenarios to ensure respectful interactions among employees.
Take the point of view of others.
Science has shown us that mirror neurons work to create empathy among individuals. By taking the point of view of the people we work with we can better understand their motivations.
Value the many sources of knowledge that exist.
Sometimes we tend to think that our view is the correct one, because it’s all we know. But there are many sources of knowledge that exist within the workplace and all we have to do is take the time to explore them. Learn about that new co-worker or have lunch with someone in another department.
Look for places to agree, connect or support.
When we interact with others in the workplace, it’s easier to conquer our differences by finding ways to connect first. Does that co-worker with the different political beliefs also value family as much as you? This allows you to create a connection with the person based on commonality.
Acknowledge that I don’t have to be right all the time.
Often when we assume we are right, we reduce the amount of new information that we take in, because obviously we know it all already! A better approach would be to accept that you may not be right all the time and allow yourself to learn from your co-workers’ differences.
Act in ways that edify the self-esteem of others.
Discussions of difference or diversity in the workplace can sometimes get ugly with people hurling personal insults at one another. Instead, try to boost the self-esteem of others when discussing such hotly contested topics. Building self-esteem is a major step toward creating a respectful workplace.
By practicing these simple tips on a regular basis, you can ensure that respect is not just another corporate buzzword in the workplace but an action that all employees partake in. And hopefully, before long, these rules will become ones that we all follow without giving them much thought.