Respect as a Powerful Tool for Building Community

Respect defines community at work.

The actions, words, and expressions that convey respect among people lay the foundation for building a productive, fulfilling environment.

When it comes to respect, do sweat the small stuff.

People have an amazing sensitivity to anything that signals how they’re getting along with one another. Figuring out these things does not require any conscious effort. It’s occurs in a complex system of perception and analysis that just rolls along. But the consequences are huge.

One way to appreciate the power of respect among people at work is to think of identity as, at least partially, a shared quality. Although some aspects of identity are tied to our unique feelings and memories, other aspects are our relationships. People are sons, daughters, parents, friends, colleagues, or a myriad other possible connections. Over time and with emotional energy, key relationships become essential elements in who we are.

A workplace where people regularly express respect for one another gains a quality of shared identity among all who participate. It defines a community.

Building that community requires active participation, but it need not be tedious. People really are sensitive to subtle cues.

  1. Acknowledge One Another. Just noting your awareness of others around you is a small step along the way.
  2. Appreciation. Showing appreciation to one other—even just saying thank you—conveys respect.
  3. Accommodate. Going out of your way, even in a small way, conveys respect. Holding a door open or doing a favor can brighten a moment in someone’s day.

The small actions, words, and gestures that acknowledge, appreciate, and accommodate others create the elements of community. Any individual can take these small steps; they’re even more powerful when a group takes them together.

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