At the end of the Respect Effect, Paul Meshanko writes about respect outside of work. While it’s imperative that we be respectful in our workplaces, practicing respectful behavior among our family, friends, and even strangers strengthens our overall commitment to civility.

I was reminded of this the other evening when driving home from the office. On the highway entrance, I was aggressively tailgated by another driver who, when we merged, cut me off and sped away. For the remainder of the drive, I reflected on this incident realizing it was not the first and would not be the last time I was bullied on the highway.

Disrespectful drivers

After thinking about it, I wondered why in our culture we assume it’s acceptable to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and bully someone, who we do not even know. Do we abandon respectful behavior once we start driving? Do we feel empowered because we have limited access to the other person? Do we feel more powerful behind a moving vehicle when we know we can speed away and never see the other driver again?

I am certainly not the best driver out there and don’t proclaim to be. There have been times when I have become frustrated with drivers not going at least the speed limit. But, I can’t remember a time where I hostilely followed someone trying to intimidate them to move.

I wondered if it was that we feel empowered behind the wheel of a vehicle going 60+ mph. In that vehicle, we are isolated and don’t have to have an actual in-person experience with the other driver. We don’t know them and we don’t have any ties to them so it seems perfectly acceptable that we can wield our power over them.

This leads me to believe it also has something to do with not seeing that person ever again. Since we don’t have a relationship with them and frankly never will, it is so much easier to exert that power over them and try to intimidate them. In a lesser environment, we wouldn’t be able to achieve this, as we’d have to interact with them on a daily basis.

Stand up to bullies on the road of life

If anything, this recent situation has made me more aware. Aware of my own behaviors outside of the workplace and in life. After all, respect starts with me and my personal commitment to make a difference in my own life. I choose not to bully people at work nor on the road, and I hope you will too!