“Respect for people” is (very often) bullshit

April 22, 2014

Read time 1 min

Occupational healthcare service companies (Diacor, Terveystalo etc. in Finland) offer stress-reduction workshops. These workshops are commissioned by management for a certain group of employees. After the workshop the facilitators give the company a list of conditions that lead to stress within the given group. I’ve heard the company then often replies: “Why are you giving us this list? We hired you to get rid of the stress.”

Most of the factors resulting in employee stress are, of course, within the company. Company policies, management and culture. The stress-reduction workshops are an attempt to remedy the symptoms, but they won’t fix the original cause. “Employee wellbeing” programs in general tend to be the same. Superficial.

Organizations claim one of their most important principles is “respect for people”. Yet the system conditions are completely the opposite. Superficial “respect for people” without the system-level is bullshit. If you’re taking a dump on someone it doesn’t make it better if you’re compassionately smiling and listening to them while doing so. The essence of respect for people lies in the system.

It’s counter-intuitive. If you want to respect people, your first area of focus shouldn’t be people. Instead, you should focus on creating an environment in which people can thrive.

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