We Are More Alike Than We Are Different

By | 2017-01-13T13:42:29+00:00 September 3rd, 2008|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: , |2 Comments

Last month, I helped facilitate a workshop on respect in the workplace, leading a discussion on personal values and how they affect our professional behavior. Since our values significantly impact the decisions we make, it was important to have our participants spend some time reflecting on their own and the behaviors that would ideally correspond with them.

In that discussion, our participants defined a value both as something of importance and as a compass that guides us. They also discussed and came up with a brief list of possible universal values; those core ideals which would likely be just as important to individuals from any country our demographic in the world. While not validated beyond our discussion, our group’s list included:

1. Health
2. Family
3. Spirituality
4. Education

So what happens when we work with individuals who we believe are challenging or even attacking our personal values?

Often, we start to feel defensive and in return start to resent those individuals.

But what if we realized that most of us share similar values, possibly some from our list above, but simply act on them differently? Would there be more understanding in the workplace?  Maybe the way I demonstrate the importance of family simply looks different from the person in the next cubicle.

This is especially true in workplaces that are multigenerational.  Again, family, as a value, is a good example. It may be a shared value by many but individually acted on by different employees. Doesn’t a parent, who has young children and needs to take time off to care for them when they are sick, deserve the same respect as an employee who has to take time off to assist with an elderly parent?

What do you think?

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About the Author:

Melanie Sklarz
Melanie Sklarz was the the web content and social media coordinator as well as the lead blog writer for the RespectfulWorkplace.com website. She has a MA in Women’s Studies from the Ohio State University. For more information, visit melaniesklarz.com.


  1. Carol Bowser September 3, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    You bring out a point that I see over and over again when working with companies (people) in conflict. That is- Values drive behavior. The discussion rarely goes to the value. Instead, the person is attacked and conflict erupts, relationships are damaged, production suffers, an “us v. them” division begins.

    The kicker is that it is very uncomfortable talking about values in the workplace. It is easier to talk about behavior. What employers and employees often fail to openly discuss and agree upon is what behaviors do we want in our workplace.

    Nice post.

  2. Mark Pinto September 7, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I agree with our common belief that we all believe we are different only to be quite alike. I have found it to be evident when we ask people to privately list what they think makes them different. When asked to share it as a group, I have found that what they list says more about how everyone is alike than different. When we realize that we have similar if not the same goals, we break one link in the chain of resistance.

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