The Oxford dictionary definition of respect is:
A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
This definition expects that you have learned something about the individual to whom you extend your respect. I can see how the old adage “respect is earned, not given” falls in line with this definition.
My parents taught us that we had to respect all people. When challenged they gave criteria like:
- Age – “respect your elders” was applied to any ethnic or cultural background
- Teachers – anyone from whom we could learn something, not just in a formal setting
- Experience – they felt that wisdom came from living, not just status
- Status – being respectful of those who bore a title, unless their behavior reflected a lack of self respect and mutual respect
- Differing opinions – debate was not often heard in our home, but respect was taught for an opinion that was different from our own
My siblings and I interpreted this as that we had no choice and were expected to respect pretty much everyone. That was not the norm in Apartheid era South Africa.
Respecting everyone unconditionally is called Owed Respectin the July-August 2018 issue Harvard Business Journal article Do Your Employees Feel Respected?
Owed respect is different from earned respect.
Owed respect is what my parents taught – that everyone deserves our respect and this should be conveyed to all individuals by the way we perceive and interact with them – without bias tainted by their position in life or status given by society. Owed respect inside an organization means that everyone is treated equally with time, respectful listening and consideration for their opinions and ideas.
Earned respect is what employees earn by their efforts to excel, reach a goal, pass an exam or by noticeably and consistently doing their job with care. The opportunities to acknowledge earned respect abound and are not the challenge with creating a culture of respect.
How owed respect is given at all levels in the company is what really matters.
What is the culture of respect in your company and how well do your managers offer owed respect to all employees, regardless of rank?
Observe the way in which owed respect is given and upheld by everyone, from the officers of the company all the way down the ranks. Now decide if this is what you want your company culture to reflect. You can begin by practicing owing respect to all and start a movement to improve owed respect in your company.
If you would like to receive tips on how to establish a culture of respect in your organization click here.