Mutual professional respect among colleagues is essential for groups or teams whose work entails collaboration. When the fabric of respect is stretched or tattered, collaboration becomes difficult or impossible. Although mutual respect between two people is inherently bidirectional, when it breaks down, it might break largely in one direction. That is, Alpha (the disrespected), might still respect Beta (the disrespector) even though Beta no longer respects Alpha. Here are some tactics to use if you sense that a colleague has lost respect for you.
- Check for alternative explanations
- If you believe you've lost someone's respect, that's information, but is it correct? What have you seen or heard that led you to this conclusion? If Beta actually said, "I've lost professional respect for you," that's one thing, but if you base your conclusion on, say, not having received an invitation to the last meeting, that's a much less sturdy foundation for any conclusion.
- Conclusions based on data aren't data. Separate data you have from conclusions you've reached. For each conclusion, find two other hypotheses that explain the data. For example, if you weren't invited to a meeting, is it possible that the invitation was sent but not received? If you can find other explanations for your observations, perhaps you haven't lost Beta's respect after all.
- Check whether it's about you
- Professional rivalry — impersonal rivalry between entire professions — can manifest itself as personal rivalry between members of the rival Before concluding that
you've lost someone's
respect, think carefully. Not
everything is about you.professions. If Beta seems dismissive of Alpha's views, or if Beta systematically limits Alpha's participation, and if they are of different professions, or represent different organizations, professional rivalry might be afoot.
- Before concluding that you've lost someone's respect, check for professional rivalry. Maybe what you've observed isn't about you.
- Ask for a dialog
- If you haven't found an alternative explanation for Beta's behavior, consider initiating a dialog with Beta. If you know that your own behavior precipitated the problem, and an apology is in order, ask Beta for permission to apologize. If you know of no transgression on your part, apologizing isn't an option. Instead, explain to Beta that you've sensed that there might be a problem, and ask for an opportunity to learn what it might be, if there is a problem.
- A true dialog is a one-on-one conversation. The presence of witnesses in earshot creates a venue for a performance, or worse, a debate. Dialogs are more likely to generate positive outcomes than are performances and debates. If Beta doesn't want to participate in a dialog, alternative explanations for your observations are more likely. Search again.
Always remember that you cannot change someone else's mind. Only that mind's owner can change that mind. What you can do is create conditions that help the mind's owner to change. Be respectful of others, and, more important, be respectful of yourself. Top Next Issue
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