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Recently I watched a film that showed employees acting poorly toward fellow coworkers. Could your behavior be featured on such a film?

Lessons we should have learned as children are sometimes left by the wayside when we enter the workforce. We then become caricatures of which the more ethical would be ashamed.

Degradation in behavior occurs when people feel comfy and in control. It’s as if (when we get what we want) a reverse gratitude takes place within our spirits – prompting retorts which are both bossy and inappropriate. When people sense they’re above the law is when you see their true colors.

In the ethics chapter of Management, Robbins and Coulter urge students to “be a dependable organizational citizen,” by

  • Demonstrating courtesy, respect, honesty, and fairness, and  
  • Refraining from abusive language

Similarly, in our paper “Diversity Management: The New Organizational Paradigm” my co-authors and I offer three parallel frameworks for judging the resulting value of behavior. These include:

  1. The Golden Rule –  rooted in both history and several world religions. If you want to be treated fairly, treat others fairly (Carroll, 1990).
  2. The Disclosure Rule If you are comfortable with decisions after asking yourself if you would mind if others were aware of them, the decision is probably ethical (Carroll, 1990).
  3. The Rights Approach – assumes that people’s dignity is based on their ability to freely choose what they will do with their lives, and they have a fundamental moral right to have these choices respected (Valasquez, et al., 1996).

I saw a reiteration of these values on placards posted on the walls of a local high school. They read:

  1. Violence/disrespect: any word, look, sign or act that threatens someone’s body, feelings, dignity, or things.
  2. Optimism: A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.
  3. Courage: doing the right thing in the face of difficulty and following your conscience instead of the crowd.

Employees don’t feel like adults when they experience romper room at work. Some simple communication techniques can ensure that all parties involved feel both valued and respected:

  1. Paraphrase: this technique involves checking for mutual understanding (and not simply repeating what someone else has said). In your own words, mirror back what you understand as the conversant’s meaning. That way, you can proceed forth on a shared platform of comprehension.
  2. Talking with someone, as opposed to “at them.” In my posting eight ways to save face for someone else, I suggest the following ways to preserve others’ dignity:
  • Refrain from using insulting, derogatory, or demeaning language
  • Let the other person speak, and then listen to their story
  • Don’t grandstand over minor issues
  • Cut the other person some slack
  • Give the person the benefit of the doubt
  • Approach encounters as fact finding missions
  • Create an atmosphere of equals
  • Ask for suggestions 

Approach interactions in the spirit of serving your fellow comrade, rather than gratifying your ego or preserving your position. You are then most likely to behave in a collegial fashion.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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