Organizational Culture

Respect for Others: The Foundation of Every Relationship

By Debbie Williams

respect at work values image

This is part six of our BizLibrary Values series, in which we explore the pursuit of excellence. If you haven’t yet, check out the rest of the series here:

During my formative years, I was educated to respect my elders, respect teachers, respect nature and respect the law. As a result, respect became an important part of my vocabulary—and an important part of my character.

While there are some general guiding principles as to what respect means, I’ve discovered over the years that individuals tend to interpret and display respect in different ways. Some relate it primarily to communication, some to character, and some to manners.

As examples, you can see the various interpretations of respect from the following quotes, starting with theoretical physicist Albert Einstein:

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

Einstein seemed to emphasize that respect is how you communicate with people. According to his definition, respect means to communicate with every person with the same regard, regardless of their job, role, status—in short, regardless of their differences.

Bruce Lee – martial artist, actor, philosopher, filmmaker – says:

“Knowledge will give you power, but character, respect.”

You can be knowledgeable, but that knowledge doesn’t earn admiration if your mental or physical qualities and actions are less than desirable. For example, if you say words or display actions that indicate you may not be honest, that shows your character is lacking, and respect may not be awarded to you by others.

According to Irish novelist and Anglican clergyman Laurence Sterne:

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”

Are we disrespecting someone by not holding the door open for them as they enter a room right after we do? Is it disrespectful to address an elder by their first name and skip the Mr., Mrs., or Ms.? Is a person considered disrespectful by not saying “bless you” to someone who sneezes in their presence?

If you conducted a poll with these questions, you would likely end up with some diverse results.

Respecting others is important to us here at BizLibrary, so much so that we’ve made it one of our seven core values. This is how we view respect:

Diversity of opinion and background is an integral part of our success. We strive to be cognizant of how people view the world and be respectful of that perspective. Wouldn’t every company—and the world, for that matter—be a better place if we all just respected one another?

From my perspective, here are three (of many) ways I consistently see BizLibrary employees showing respect to one another:

1. Listening, paying attention, and really showing appreciation when someone has something important to say, even if it is a fellow employee who simply wants to share something fun they did over the weekend. How meaningful it is to know someone else truly cares and is interested in YOU. That’s respect.

2. Respecting others who are experiencing difficult times. People show this type of respect in various ways—again, due to different views and interpretations. I’ve personally witnessed respect being delivered by simply saying a kind word to a fellow employee, writing a personal note, or sending an appropriate greeting card to express well wishes. Others display respect by offering to assume tasks that are stressful to the person because of their difficult situation.

3. Helping people improve themselves by coaching and providing each employee an opportunity to increase their knowledge and skill levels. Employees are readily available and eager to answer a question, walk someone through a process change, or schedule a learning session on a new product release. We respect others by showing that there is truly no dumb question. Furthermore, we respect fellow employees by asking them what we can do to help them grow and improve.

Each one of us can show others respect, regardless of our personal interpretation of the concept.

One easy way to know whether you are being respectful is to simply ask yourself this question: “How will what I am about to say or do make that person or others feel? Will it create a positive reaction, or will it embarrass or possibly lower the esteem of the other person?”

To answer my own previous questions…

Would I feel respected if someone took an extra few seconds to hold the door open for me as I entered the room right after them? YES.

Would I feel disrespected if a much younger person referred to me as “Debbie?” NO.

And, YES, I believe a person is showing respect by saying “bless you” when someone sneezes.

Those are me and my interpretations when it comes to simple ways of showing respect. What are yours?

Enjoy a 1-minute preview of “Diversity: Seeking Commonality – The Diversity Scale” from The BizLibrary Collection:

As Vice President of Content Development, Debbie Williams is responsible for production and maintenance of BizLibrary-owned video-based content, acquisition of and strategic relationships with all content partners, and the overall quality and content offering for BizLibrary clients. Over the past 15+ years, Debbie has enjoyed contributing to BizLibrary’s success in several roles, including: Account Manager, Member Services Manager, Vice President of Operations and currently, Vice President of Content Development.