One of the biggest challenges when disrespect occurs in the workplace can be someone taking accountability to address the disrespect.
The act of not addressing disrespect can actually be worse and more disrespectful than the disrespect that needs to be addressed. This is an often overlooked form of disrespect in the workplace. And yes, this means that the recipient or observer of disrespect can actually cause more harm than the person who was disrespectful in the first place. How can this be?
As we consider our options when disrespect occurs, here are seven reasons why leaders and team members may cause more long term disrespect when accountability is not embraced to address the disrespect:
- Our silence may indirectly give the perception that the disrespectful behaviour is acceptable and that there’s nothing wrong.
- With the perception that the behaviour is accepted, there’s a likelihood that the disrespectful behaviours will be repeated by the same person and/or other people.
- As the behaviours are repeated, we may be treated disrespectfully again, and the disrespectful conduct may spread towards other people.
- As the disrespectful conduct spreads, the actions can become part of the culture, and the normal habitual ways that people within the culture, act and communicate towards one another.
- The people who are disrespectful towards others, may actually have no awareness of their behaviours. Even if we can’t possibly understand and imagine how they could not know, it’s possible. Without awareness, people who demonstrate disrespectful conduct may never know where they need to change and develop.
- Our health and well-being can be negatively impacted. Disrespect can influence our thinking, emotions and stress level; resentment may be below the surface and magnify.
- We may start to be disrespectful ourselves.
When we consider these points, in a way, by not addressing disrespect, we could be considered an accomplice to disrespect in the future.
Not addressing disrespect can be disrespect.
Many years ago, I was involved with a client that had a team of fifteen people. Fourteen of the team members were united on one common perspective: they didn’t like the fifteenth team member. This one team member, who was on the outside, did her fair share in contributing to the animosity. Her biggest challenge was communicating in a respectful manner. The rest of the team was done with her. The work environment became toxic and poisoned, as no one addressed the disrespect. Just like a leaky tap that’s never fixed, no matter how small the individual drips of water seem on their own, over time, there is an accumulative effect that can have consequences.
Everyone contributes to respect and disrespect, either actively or passively. The question is, “What is your contribution?”
As leaders and team members, we might all be able to benefit from taking another look and what we’ve potentially been overlooking!