Respect Must Be Given, then Earned. An Equivocation, plus Comments on Remuneration
#GTIdeology Rejoinder for April 28, 2016
Have you ever heard a manager, boss, or owner say something like, “I treat my people with respect?”
Well, they don’t. At least not the way I mean it.
There is a certain form of respect, that would better be called business cordial, that does not seize upon hierarchy and structural authority to mistreat or flagrantly disrespect subordinates, but that most certainly does assume the subordinate-superior relationship.
Business cordial is a way to feign respect where it does not really exist.
Saying, “please” and “thank you” despite everyone involved knowing there are no options but to comply. “Would you please mop the restrooms after you finish scraping the grill?” is an example of business cordial.
Metaphysical Respect and Radical Leadership
Business cordial is obviously better than treating others with flagrant disrespect. It takes the sting off of being ordered around and living in a subordinate position, but does not necessarily demonstrate a genuine respect for the personhood of another.
That sort of respect, concern with the dignity, integrity, and personhood of another is what Radical Leadership is about. Not taking the sting off of working in a “degrading position” or being “a subordinate” but recognizing there are no degrading positions or subordinates.
People are fond of saying there is no shame in any work and they are right. But that does not change the fact that too often too many look down on others for the sort of work they do.
No person may ever be denied metaphysical respect because of their work or place in an organization.
It came up repeatedly in Thursday’s discussion that respect must be earned. It is not simply due another because of her or his position. While I agree completely, it does not square with another of Thursday’s recurring themes: For respect to permeate an organization and be part of its culture, it must begin “at the top” — of course, per our 2nd Radical Idea, there is no such “top” in The Skolny Organization and “leader” would be more on point, but per the point being made, I also agree completely.
Is it a paradox? If respect must be earned, how can leaders initiate it? For that matter, if it must be earned, how can it be integral to an organization? Or is it an equivocation?
I put it to you that it is the latter. All respect is not earned. Respect begins with metaphysical respect upon which earned respect — for action, work, results, consistency — is built.
Everybody must earn respect by what they do, but each individual is due metaphysical respect as the starting point. It is the foundation of leadership. We cannot lead those for whom we do not have it, nor be lead by those who do not give it or for whom we lack it.
For (Formal) Leaders
For formal leaders, giving metaphysical respect does not mean business cordial. The absence of disrespect simply does not prove respect. Metaphysical respect means recognizing the inherent equality between you and another, regardless of your relative positions in the organization. Without that, it is impossible for employees to earn respect through their contribution.
You can only truly respect the work of the individual whom you first respect as an individual. Nor can you ever earn respect as an individual if you assume your position excuses you from metaphysical respect for others.
For employees, metaphysical respect means recognizing yourself as a metaphysical equal to others without obsequiousness or sycophancy. It means not giving respect to a position, but to a person. And not an obedient respect to the person because of their position, but a respect to that recognizes the essential equality of individuals, regardless of positions.
You cannot respect another person, only serve that person, until you respect yourself as her or his equal. Nor can you ever earn respect from another when you are incapable of mutual metaphysical respect with that person.
Our conversation never fully settled in on remuneration’s role in the equation, and I would like to make a final comment on it because I judge it not only integral, but essential to the connection between leadership and respect.
It’s very simple: If metaphysical respect is real, it will be reflected in payment structures. The more metaphysical inequality evidenced in two individual’s incomes, the less likely there can be metaphysical respect between them.
Does the fast food worker earning 0.00166666666 of the CEO’s hourly wage really garner metaphysical respect from that CEO? Can the CEO possibly respect the work that worker does?
Leadership in those circumstances is impossible. It denies the metaphysical equality on which leadership depends. Those circumstances cannot and will not exist in The Skolny Organization.
About Vince Skolny
Vince Skolny founded The Skolny Organization on his radical idea that greatness is only created through the Individual. This is his weekly rejoinder to its #GTIdeology Happy Hour twitter discussion.