by Ned Parks

It’s been said for several years that respect is an active process. But within that process we are finding both passive and active respect.

I was recently working with a group in a workshop I conduct called, “Crash the Barrier; Build the Team”. I was not only working toward helping this team pull together, I was also exploring passive and active respect.

During one of the exercises one of the team members was put out of the group as a part of the exercise. Later that person was brought back in the group. During our debriefing it was observed the person was not completely comfortable returning to the group. As we discussed this deeper it became apparent the group had “made a place” for this person but had not “invited them in”. It was nothing short of stunning.

Let’s examine how a new employee comes into a company. They go through an interview procedure, get an offer, accept the offer, agree on a start date and then show up at work on the well known, “first day on the job.” Then an email and/or a voice mail is sent out telling everyone to say “hi” and to welcome the new hire to the company. The new employee is taken around, introduced and shown their desk.

Is this respectful? Sure, in a passive way. Like in the exercise, a place was made but the person still did not “feel” welcome, they end up feeling the passivity. How then do we take it from passive respect to proactive respect?

As a start to creating a respectful workplace, a culture needs to be built and encouraged within the organization that lays out active steps for welcoming new employees or existing employees to new jobs.

During the open space time of the aforementioned workshop, the topics turned to “making a place” for new employees AND “inviting them in”. As we discussed what inviting them in looked like, we also discussed how our lack of respect for those we don’t know, are different and don’t understand, often can get in the way of an invitation to join the group.

Some of the steps that can be taken to create an actively respectful workplace from the beginning are:

Have lunch brought in for the entire team to welcome the new employee or to celebrate the new job.

Have every existing employee make a special trip to the new person’s desk to introduce themselves.

Assign a “work buddy” of equal job level to be a first person to ask questions.

Send flowers to the new person from the group.

Have balloons at their desk for the first two weeks so non-department members know a new employee is there and they will know to stop and say hello.

Have different senior level leaders make a personal stop or a live phone call to welcome them to the organization.

Get your customers involved and ask them to make a special phone call welcoming the new person.

The list goes on and on, but a good first step is to initiate the discussion of how your organization handles the arrival and “on-boarding” of new employees. The first day of work can be the impression of your organization that lasts throughout an employee’s tenure, so make sure it’s a positive one!