While I usually write about respect from a behavioral perspective and how people treat each other in the workplace, I’ve never written about respect for your actual workplace, until now. After several requests, I thought it was about time to focus on something that most of take for granted or don’t realize has anything to do with respect.
Respecting the actual space you work in may not seem like it has anything to do with respecting the people you work with but both are so intrinsically connected, I couldn’t avoid the topic any longer. A respectful workplace is an entire package. It’s hard to have one without the other.
As humans, we are highly visual creatures. I remember once going on a job interview and walking into the office of the person who would be my supervisor. Every surface of her desk and the surrounding floor was riddled with stacks of paper. She actually had to move a pile of books so I could sit down. During the interview, she literally rifled through the stacks on her desk to find my resume. At another interview, I was greeted by a different potential supervisor, who was barefoot.
While these may be isolated incidents, I fear they are not. Leaving both situations, I felt like I didn’t matter enough for them to professionally prepare themselves or their space. Clearly, neither woman was trying to earn my respect, because I left both interviews hoping and even praying a little that I didn’t get the job, so I didn’t have to work for someone like that.
For many years, I worked in small office that usually housed no more than three people. Because it was so small and we were all introverts, it was so quiet in there you could really hear a pin drop. Then one day, the third person left and was replaced by someone else. This person was very extroverted and needed noise when she worked. So without asking the other two of us, she started playing music all day long.
It took me awhile to say something to her about it, and I secretly wished she had asked us first if it was all right to play music. There is something to be said about learning a workplace culture before invading it. The fact that she just came in an assumed we all wanted to hear her music or loud phone calls was presumptuous.
The workplace is not immune to smells. I am sure most of us have sat next to someone eating smelly food at their desk, like fish. Or you worked in an office where someone burned popcorn in the microwave and the smell lingered for the rest of the day.
The biggest culprit is usually the public restroom. Yes, we are all human and have the same bodily functions, but when you are in the workplace and have to share a communal bathroom, try to be considerate and respectful that other people will be using the same space. Recently, someone told me a story about how she walked into the bathroom at work, and it was clear from the smell that someone had been seriously ill and did not bother to clean up after themselves leaving a terrible stench.
While it is necessary to remember the obvious behaviors that create a respectful workplace, like smiling or saying ‘thank you,’ it’s even more essential to remember the not so obvious things that may not bother us but could offend someone else. Following the Platinum Rule is a good place to start. Think not how something looks, sounds or smells like to you in the workplace but how it may be experienced by someone else.
Finally, treat your physical workplace with the same amount of respect as the the people who work there.