Dignity – the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect
Respect – a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.

When was the last time you heard either of these terms during a work conversation? In general, most agree these words describe the foundation for a healthy professional environment yet it is rare for any of us to take the time to delve into the significance of having dignity and respect within the professional world. And interestingly enough, it is the lack of dignity and respect which can result in the deterioration of communication and collaboration and increase the likelihood of conflicts arising.

According to the findings of many researchers including Dr. Laura Crawshaw, conduct matters as much as product. Which means simply, how we choose to treat people is important. If people are valued and appreciated for their work and contributions then product will improve as well. Treating people with dignity and respect is actually a win-win solution!

Three Tips for Incorporating Dignity and Respect into the Workplace:
1. Model the desired behaviors by treating all, regardless of title, in a professional, courteous and collaborative manner.
2. Include people in “thought partnerships” where ideas are exchanged, options explored and people feel heard.
3. If you witness inappropriate behavior, call it out (“We don’t do that here.”), acknowledge the inappropriate behavior (“I heard your boss yell at you. That’s not okay.”) or document the incident for possible future reference.  When considering all options, please keep in mind your comfort level and safety.

Below are three book recommendations, which discuss in depth these lofty themes of dignity and respect. The intention with each resource is to bring the concept(s) down to a concrete and usable tool(s), which can be incorporated into daily interactions. As always, it is the awareness, understanding and appreciation of the concepts which is necessary prior to any action being taken to improve the work climate.

Book Recommendations:
1. Dignity by Donna Hicks, PhD
2. Treating People Well by Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard
3. Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman and Rah Sisodia

By Melissa Connell, Ombuds Director, University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus