The media and social platforms have been abuzz the last two weeks with calls to end gender-based violence. It’s resulted in robust debate around dinner tables, at schools, and within the workplace. How did we get to this place, and what needs to be done to turn the tide? To me, it boils down to respect.

As a society, I believe we’ve lost respect as a value. And I don’t just mean for women. Respect for ourselves, our peers, our competition, our leaders. For privacy, for physical space, belongings and beliefs. The very definition of respect has become grey and murky.

A right and a responsibility

Respect is both a right and a responsibility. Everybody has the right to be respected, spoken to politely, given an opportunity to be heard and to have their own views and opinions. At the same time, respect is earned. And it is often earned by displaying respectful behaviour to both yourself and others. It is sometimes expected due to factors such as age, rank, hierarchy, class. You can admire someone for their achievements, their skills, their talents and successes. However, true respect is earned and demonstrated through behaviour and actions.

So how do we work respect back into the fabric of society?

As a business and executive coach, we assist many companies and corporate teams with identifying the core values of their businesses. We are often guilty of dismissing “respect” as a value of a company, because it’s over-traded and it should be a given – a bare minimum! But after a fortnight of soul-searching and deep introspection, perhaps it is time that every school, every business and every organisation that anyone is affiliated to brings the value of respect to the fore.

Respecting diversity in the workplace

You will be hard pressed to find a more diverse community than South Africa, and the workplace is often where this diversity is most evident. Not only in physical attributes, race, gender and religion, but also in work styles, generational differences and personalities. The workplace is therefore a great place to foster the concept of respect, and businesses have the responsibility to encourage respectful behaviour on the one hand and enforce it on the other.

Showing respect in the workplace

There are hundreds of ways to demonstrate respect in business. Here are just a few thought starters…

  • Manage your anger
  • Communicate politely and courteously
  • Zero tolerance for bullying
  • Zero tolerance for sexual harassment
  • Be on time and keep time constraints in mind during meetings
  • Make employees feel valued and recognised
  • Avoid judging peers and fuelling rumours through corridor talk
  • Don’t badmouth customers and clients

What can you do to bring the concept of respect back into your business and into society? As a business owner or leader, you have the responsibility to lead by example and help your team navigate their way through these stressful times to emerge as better members of society. We can support you. Contact me for a chat!




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