I was recently contacted by a facilitator at one of our manufacturing clients that is rolling out our Connecting with Respect process across their organization. Her question was interesting. Evidently, there were certain managers (and more senior employees) who were of the opinion that they should not be expected to respect others unless their respect had been “earned.” Could we possibly give her and her co-facilitators some ideas on how to constructively discuss this notion?

Rather than directly challenging someone else’s opinion, I find that it’s usually better to ask questions about those opinions. First of all, it is very likely that they have some great points that might inform my own thinking. Secondly, nobody likes to be told they’re wrong! That said, here are a few thoughts I offered to help facilitate constructive dialogue.

  1. Who gets to decide which of our colleagues are deserving of respect?

    When we maintain a mindset that puts us in the role of judging when others have “earned” our respect, we’re presuming that we are qualified to make that judgment. Most of us are not because our own perspectives are highly subjective and biased by our own life experiences. That said, do we have a right to hold others to standards that, in many cases, are unique to me?

  1. Why would one person intentionally withhold respect from others?

    Decades of observations by psychologists suggest that intentionally withholding anything from another person (or group) is a passive-aggressive behavior associated with lower self-esteem. Withholding only creates the illusion of control over others and is more a statement about our own need for validation. The healthier our self-esteem, the less we need to withhold respect (or anything else) from our subordinates, co-workers or other people in general.

  1. What is the REAL reason someone might want to withhold respect from another person?

    My personal experience is that people are reluctant (in some cases afraid) to confront and try to change their current pattern of behaviors that might be perceived as disrespectful to others. Behavior change takes time, effort and a willingness to acknowledge where our current habits may be-less-than ideal. The easier path is to simply make the case that “I’m okay the way I am”…because then I don’t need to change. But the easy path isn’t always the best. Paradoxically, we are most likely to “earn” the respect of others when we own our own shortcomings and make an effort to fix them.

What do think? Leave a comment and let me know!