Disrespect In The Workplace Essay

Disrespect and rudeness from coworkers and superiors remains a serious problem for healthcare workers in spite of concerted efforts by the healthcare industry to curb and eliminate the behavior.

A thought-provoking essay by healthcare attorney Carolyn Buppert and published by Medscape looked at previous surveys that show an increase in behavior problems in the healthcare workplace, including reports of colleagues making degrading comments, insults, yelling and even throwing objects at coworkers. 

Nurses report that they have not only been on the receiving end of disrespectful behavior from physicians, but also from other nurses. Caught between the expectations of physicians, administrators, patients and their families, nurses on the whole report high levels of workplace stress and an overall sense of being unsupported by their workplaces.

When healthcare workers are afraid to go to superiors with problems or feel as if they are unable to question medical orders, patients can come to real harm, Buppert wrote.

In order to fight workplace disrespect, Buppert said healthcare institutions must find where frustrations exist in the workplace and that provoke confrontations among doctors, nurses and healthcare staff. Organizations must put systems in place that empower workers to speak out about abusive practices, she wrote. They must also ensure that they enforce standards of behavior uniformly across all departments and pay levels.

Although some national organizations and medical centers have worked on this problem for years, Buppert said survey data shows there is no change in disrespectful behavior from a decade ago.

"Rudeness should never be the reason behind a bad outcome for a patient and should never be the reason that a clinician leaves a job," she wrote. "The responsibility falls on everyone--those who dish it out, those who take it, and those who oversee the dishers and the takers--to keep disrespect out of healthcare."

To learn more:
- read the essay here

"Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."

Immanuel Kant

Do you know of someone looking to change companies? It may come as no surprise to many of you that as I write this column, I have received no less than five inquiries from competent individuals looking to change jobs. What may come as a surprise is that three of the individuals work for firms that are regularly listed in the annual best 100 companies to work for and one of the individual's works for a firm included among the top 20. Why would they want to leave companies that many would do just about anything to work for? Why leave a company nationally recognized as an outstanding workplace that provide above average perks, including excellent compensation and benefits not to mention prestige? The answer is relatively easy and usually escapes many of us especially if we reside within the management ranks. They are not leaving the company, they are leaving their manager.


It is often repeated by those who study and write about management that organizations would work better, be more productive, and inspire customer loyalty if 90% of all management positions were eliminated. The reason being that so many who carry the title "manager" lack the training, skills, and natural talent to be really good managers. All too often new managers carry forward the bad habits of the managers they learned from, without any realization how much damage they inflict upon themselves, subordinates, customers and their organization.

According to research conducted by the Gallup organization, "employees do not leave their jobs due to company performance; they leave because of their bosses".


Most managers are promoted from the rank and file with little, if any, preparation and often even less confidence in their abilities. In many cases the "manager" is the person who was most proficient performing a particular job function with little or no attention given to their ability to communicate, lead or think outside of their particular area of expertise. Professional management requires the ability to plan, direct, and control the activities of a particular function while motivating the staff assigned to achieve the desired results of that function. Management requires a combination of skills along with natural ability. One who is given the title of "manager" based solely on job performance might as well say to subordinates "Hey I'm not sure what I'm doing here so help me learn how to be a manager". However, that would not be practical and a sure sign of weakness, so to cover that weakness they usually try to exert control or follow someone else's rules for success that may include the very things that make for bad managers.

A good manager constantly works to improve their skills and further develop their natural ability while at the same time maintaining a quality workplace. Quality workplace is often defined as one with a high level of employee retention and productivity and consistent customer satisfaction.


Wanting to see employees grow and succeed;

            Matching the right people with the right job;

            Defining desired outcome while giving subordinates the latitude

to accomplish them in their own ways;

            Focusing on what's best in people not the worst.

An excellent manager does all this and also brings people together by displaying and demanding respect in the workplace.


Respect can be defined as consideration for self and of others.

Respect includes consideration for other people's privacy, their physical space and belongings; and respect for different viewpoints, philosophies, physical ability, beliefs and personality.

In order to earn the respect of others, one must first have respect for themselves. One must recognize they are a person worthy of respect. They refrain from making jokes or negative remarks that demean their abilities, skills or other aspects of them. They don't make jokes or negative comments about the ability, skills or other attributes of others.  One earns respect by giving respect to ones self and to others.

If a manager criticizes the work of employees using negative or derogatory comments about everything they do, should they receive respect because they are the boss? If the employee silently accepts criticism the employee is saying that the boss is better than they are because they are the boss and the employee thus shows a lack of respect for them self. Everyone deserves to be treated without abuse regardless of the quality of their work. If the employees work is good and is still being criticized, they are permitting themselves to be demeaned unnecessarily. If their work is of lower quality than expected, this should indicate to the manager they may need help in learning how to do the job better. Regardless, the employee still deserves respect.

There are employees who not only love the company but also the work they do and yet they will still leave. This often occurs due to an individual, usually not a manager, in the workplace who is critical, disruptive and disagreeable about everything and everyone. This person usually does not perform as well as their peers and has a poor attendance record. One person with a poor attitude can contaminate the workplace. Although, not a manager, their influence, especially on new employees, although less powerful is still unhealthy.

 The manager should have a very blunt talk with this individual about their ability to perform and fit into the company's culture. Specific training may be required and if so the training must be reviewed and the person's behavior monitored to make certain they change in appropriate ways. If the employee cannot adapt they must be released from employment so they do not continue to disrupt the rest of the workplace. Terminating a disruptive employee shows respect not only for the people who are meeting the company standards but also the person who does not fit in. The terminated employee is not wrong for being who they are; they simply must be shown that their attitude and work style is not appropriate in the organization.

Managers who ignore and fail to follow through in dealing with undisciplined employees will eventually lose the respect of everyone.

Managers need to be attentive to actions that may be disrespectful to co-workers and customers and take timely steps to either correct the offensive behavior or terminate the offender. Some of these offenses may include:

     Loud telephone conversations

    Showing up late for work or meetings

    Scheduling excessive personal appointments (medical, etc) during work hours

    Wearing too much perfume or cologne

    Blaming someone else when they are at fault

    Taking credit for someone else's work

    Sending unwanted email

    Searching for non work related information on the Internet

   Having a condescending or rude attitude towards others

   Talking behind someone's back

   Not communicating important information to co-workers

   Telling offensive jokes and stories


   Not pulling their own weight

   Providing false or incorrect information to customers or co-workers

   Playing personal radios or recorders loudly

The immediate manager should not only define but also spread throughout the organization the expectations of their workplace and that they know and trust their subordinates. If the employee knows their manager not only trusts them but also invests in them then that alone will often compensate for the company's small benefits package. Many excellent companies have dynamic leaders such as Bill Klesse, Gordon Buthune and Jack Welch but these individuals seldom come in daily contact with their employees. For the majority of employees there are only managers: great ones, mediocre ones and the R.O.A.D. warriors. If the employee-manager relationship is fractured, in any way, than no amount of company dog-walking or on site health facilities will persuade the employee to stay and perform. For many it is better to work for a great manager in an old fashioned company, than a terrible manager in a company offering an enlightened, employee benefit focused culture.

It makes no difference today whether a company has excellent, good or mediocre benefits.  Great benefits and dynamic CEO's may attract but generally do not retain the most productive employees. Too often the employee ranks are populated with R.O.A.D. warriors  those folks who are content to RETIRE ON ACTIVE DUTY and too often many are managers.

So, the first question is what type of management team leads my organization?

The answer to that question can only come from the employees and the questions have to be asked of them in a manner that provides management with answers beyond the typical "I agree" or "I don't agree" that the majority of questionnaires subscribe to.

So here are some suggested questions:

     Do I know what is expected of me at work?

     At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday?

     In the last seven days have I received recognition or praise for the good work I have done?

     Does my manager care about me as a person?

     Is there someone, at work, who encourages my development?

     At work, are my opinions asked for and considered?

     Am I encouraged to produce quality work?

     Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

     In the last six months has a manager discussed my progress with me?

     In the last twelve months have I been given opportunities to learn and grow?

What one does with the responses will ultimately determine what type of manager they are going to become.

The information provided above is for educational purposes only and not provided as legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained from a licensed attorney in good standing with the Bar Association and preferably Board Certified in either Creditor Rights or Bankruptcy.

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