Dignity In The Workplace

We all like to be valued and respected; and we all want to be treated ethically. In a word, we all have our dignity. It’s a visceral human requirement, though academic Andrew Sayer proposes a tighter definition, suggesting that it is “… a social phenomenon and a mix of independence and interdependence whereby you have autonomy, self-discovery as well trust and respect”. From all this, I perceive dignity, for practical purposes, to be a feeling of self-worth combined with wanting to be valued, respected and treated ethically.

So, how does this manifest itself in the workplace?

I have worked, over the years, with many SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) and, although they represent a variety of businesses, they share at least one thing in common with organisations such as education in the social sector: team leaders need to recognise the importance of according dignity to all workers. I believe that, if they do, it makes them great places to be, where great work is done.

Team members in a business that treats them with dignity:

  • Love their work
  • Take pride in their work
  • Like to be involved in change
  • Can influence change
  • Are always learning
  • Respond positively to praise
  • Can be trusted
  • Feel good all the time

Team members in a business that ignores their dignity:

  • Hate their work
  • Are confused by their work
  • Get no satisfaction from their work
  • Feel un-involved
  • Feel they have no voice
  • Stagnate
  • Work in a void
  • Want to leave
  • Feel low all the time

And remember that dignity is not about levels of pay. Although everyone wants – and deserves – a good standard of living, what they want above all else is to feel that they have a valued place in society.

With the ‘coming of the robots (AI)’ an interesting TED discussion on dignity to check out is – Roy Bahat’s – what is the meaning of work?

And if you want a blast from the past have a listen to Deacon Blue’s 80’s classic – Dignity.