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
- 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.