Disrespect at Work? You Can Make A Difference!

So many painful things happening these days. It is hard to track them all, let alone have any feelings about them. A woman is shot (accidentally?) by a Minneapolis cop. Justine Damond was her name and I knew her. Truly a bright light, a teacher and healer. Now gone. Unbelievably tragic…… So, the story I heard recently didn’t strike me as all that egregious in comparison. But it is disturbing as you will see.

It happened recently at a well-known senior care facility here in Minnesota. My friends were visiting their mother and there was a man nearby, in his 90s, who was on restricted liquids. He had to drink the thickened fluids, due to a risk of chocking. He was thirsty and could not reach his drink.  He tried to speak. All that came out were mumbles. There was an aide nearby and my friend said to him, “I think he needs a drink.”  The aide said, “I don’t speak William” and walked away. I’m not using his real name because “William” is a former CEO of an esteemed Minnesota corporation. Not that it matters. If he had been a homeless person it may have been just as disrespectful to witness. Somehow, the former CEO part makes this story especially painful to tell. I am withholding that name, because this goes out to thousands of you and maybe it was just one aide having a very bad day. And maybe not.

According to the gospel of Matthew Jesus once said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…. that person will not lose their reward.”  How much stress does one worker have to have to show this level of disrespect to a person who deserves love and respect?

How do we keep our workforce engaged, respectful and working together in harmony? How can you keep your company culture from “going Uber”? Uber’s CEO recently stepped down after a number of crisis moments, all pointing to a toxic work culture and a climate of disrespect. This is a challenge, especially in industries that can’t find a way to pay their entry level workers a living wage.

How do you keep your entry level workers interested in giving that “drink” to all who are thirsty? It starts with good leadership, solid values and character. Here are 7 ideas for you:

  1. Find out what your workers need to thrive (esp. those paid less $) and give it whenever you can.
  2. Make them feel important—more important that you!  (praise and thanks)
  3. Support them in being as healthy as they can, mentally, physically and emotionally.
  4. Make boundaries on what is unacceptable behavior and be consistent in holding them accountable
  5. Train your managers in the specifics and the manner in which they hold workers accountable.
  6. Show those who are entry level a career path if they have interest.
  7. Read the book published by Harvard Business Review Press, written by my brother-in-law Fred Kiel,  Return on Character.  Dr. Kiel proves that the character of the leaders directly translates into bottom line profitability.

Whatever you do, please make sure to get the person a drink, who needs one. When our basic needs are met we are more likely to thrive. When individuals thrive, so do organizations.

And please keep in touch. I want to know how you are doing, and I want to support you in being BRAVE.

About Tom Esch

Tom Esch works with health care companies, counties, cities, construction companies, business analysts, attorneys, executives, owners, managers and non-profit executives to grow interpersonal awareness and foster effective communication.