Does the Meaning of Respect Change?

Annita - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on August 29, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: respect

Have you ever really sat back and actually thought about what respect means, especially – in today’s world? How about in a customer service call center? Well I have. Respect for individuals is something that I value very much. It’s something that I practice and also something that I teach.

I currently teach a class at my place of employment on working in a harassment free workplace. One of the questions I ask the class is, “What does respect mean to you?” Almost always, the first response in every class is, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. Is this a true interpretation of what respect means? Does it change depending on who is interpreting it?

With generation Y and millennium, and, whatever’s next after that, the meaning of respect is ever changing. For example, a person might be perfectly fine with someone speaking slang to them or telling them to do something without demonstrating common courtesy, such as saying “please” or “thank you”. That doesn’t mean that the next person is ok with this as well.

To put this into perspective, a hot topic my company has been talking about is that as we see the next generation being hired, a common observation is that our customer service reps are chewing gum while on the phones and saying words such as “yea”, “uh-huh”, “cool”, “awesome”, “chillin”, “dude”, etc. They think there is nothing wrong with this and it’s tough sometimes to coach them on phone etiquette and really demonstrating how what they say and how they sound is a sign of respect to our callers and a reflection of the company. Say “yes sir/ma’am”, “I understand”, etc. No one wants to hear someone smacking in their ear or have an impression that we’re a laid back company and start worrying about whether or not their accounts are safe or will be transacted upon accurate and timely.

What I found very useful when I describe respect is demonstrating common courtesy, being considerate of others, being fair, open, and honest. I model this to my employees so that they can see a living and breathing example and because that’s just me, and hopefully this makes them feel good when they interact with me or see me interact with others. Hopefully, they’ll pick it up themselves one day.

While respect to some people literally is treating others the way they want to be treated, people come from different backgrounds and have different morals. What you say and what you do can have a direct impact on others. Most importantly, if this is what you expect, you, yourself, should model that as well.