Declining Respect in the Modern Workplace
Many people agree that there is less respect in the workplace today, but why? In his Forbes article, “It’s Time to Bring Back Courtesy to the Workplace,” writer and consultant Ron Ashkenas discusses how changes in the way we work may have led to a decline in respect.
In the past, work was done face-to-face and in real time. People got to know each other and made human connections. Ashkenas says this fostered courtesy in the office, because it can be awkward to directly interact with people who don’t behave respectfully.
Today, most of our work is done through email and teleconferences. We have shifted to a more impersonal way of working. With less face-to-face interaction, people may feel less obligated to be courteous to one another.
This isn’t just happening in the office. A study from the University of Michigan found that college students today are less empathetic compared to past generations, which researchers speculate may be related to an increased reliance on digital communication. A Duke study found that Americans have 1/3 fewer friends and confidants today than twenty years ago, possibly because we have more digital interactions than personal connections.
If we continue this pattern, we’ll have a toxic environment with reduced engagement and motivation. Ashkenas makes two suggestions on how to counteract the lack of respect.
- Meet with your team and talk about the behaviors that everyone expects from each other. Ask specific questions like, “What does it mean to act courteously and respectfully?” Discuss times when people weren’t respectful, and what the consequences were.
- Encourage your team to “push back.” Calling out disrespectful behavior in a courteous way can prevent it from happening in the future.