In my May newsletter I considered the stories about sexual harassment at the ride-sharing service Uber. At the time I saw the story in part as a crisis of management, of executives who adopt the posture of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

Since then the accounts of sexual harassment have mushroomed, many from the entertainment industry and many in the political arena. The accusations range from inappropriate language to more severe physical assaults. The stories seem to multiply every day, revealing a very troubling pattern across organizations, regardless of their size or type.

In the Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan rediscovered a letter to women written by Pope John Paul II in 1995. “The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object,” he wrote, “and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence.” Noonan writes, “At the heart of the current scandals is a simple disrespect and disregard for women, and an inability to love them.”

As I grew as a manager the heart of my first management insight was that respect and trust for your people is the foundation of all good management. You must build and model this culture of respect and trust. It may sound simple but it takes time.

As a leader, the character of your organization will never exceed your own. You are constantly being evaluated by your team on whether you treat people with respect and whether you walk your talk. If you are disrespectful of your employees’ intelligence or you disregard their humanity or dignity, they will not trust you and you will limit your potential for success.

Make sure you exhibit every trait and quality you want your people to exhibit. If you don’t trust and respect an employee, that person should not be working for you. That is your responsibility. If you set an example of taking responsibility for your own decisions instead of scapegoating, your people will do the same. Hiring, development, and retention culture of an organization establishes whether the organization becomes just good or great.

Learning how to respect and trust your people is the first of my Morganisms in my book Applied Wisdom. I ask several questions including:

  • Does your “tone at the top” show respect for every employee’s strengths, contributions, and personal health, comfort, and safety?
  • Are your managers clear they should avoid heroic interventions and support employee decision-making?
  • Are you asking yourself tough questions, such as: Am I being consistent in my leadership and example? Am I walking the talk?

I believe that we would see far fewer cases of sexual harassment if a robust culture of respect and trust was fundamental to our organizations.

I’d like to hear from you on this topic, please comment below.

How are you addressing disrespect in the workplace?

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