We Can't Fix What We Don't Know is Broken

We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken, and for most of us, that includes the scope of awareness required to treat others with respect. The Respect Effect is exceptional in explaining why humans act the way they do based on our primitive wiring. Our brains create a unique blueprint of how we see the world, those around us and ourselves. The result is that we tend to treat people based on our past experiences with people "like" them. What we feel when we are around people determines how we act even if we aren’t conscious of the reasons for our behavior. By understanding what happens psychologically and physically when we are treated with respect or disrespect, we become aware of ourselves in a way that makes us open to change.

Ten years from now people aren’t going to remember the exact things you did, how late you worked or what you said at a staff meeting. What they will remember is how they felt when they were around you.

One of the most important benefits created by respectful leaders is trust. Trust leads to the perception of safety, and the feeling of safety helps free organizational potential. Even when the outside environment is in flux from the economy, changing technology or competition, trust that co-workers and leaders look out for each other and are truthful creates a stability that will survive external pressures. Meshanko cites the example of one company that emerged from the recent economic downturn with the enthusiasm and commitment of its employees largely intact. How did they do it? Throughout the economic downturn, the company kept their employees fully informed of their financial situation. When employees were let go, everyone understood why. The remaining workers stayed engaged by doing odd jobs around the plant in preparation for when business improved. Doing the "right thing" led to an astounding degree of loyalty, trust and enthusiasm on the part of the remaining employees. When orders did increase, the company was in the best position to move forward. Employees felt valued because confidential information on the company had been openly and freely shared. They became vested in the future success of the company. In a workforce that increasingly reflects the demographic differences within the population, getting people from dissimilar age, gender and ethnic backgrounds to work together can be a challenge. People who are different from each other (race, age, social values, etc.) can work through prejudices and be coaxed into working collaboratively under the right conditions.

What’s most important for this principle to work is:

  • All substantial sources of conflict be dealt with or removed.
  • All individuals have equal power, stature and privileges.
  • The members of the overall group be given a task which can’t be accomplished successfully unless all members work together.
  • The environment in which the contact takes place is neutral and conducive to positive, friendly interactions..