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  • Writer's pictureNancy Dering Mock

Champion of Dignity

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Dignity is not a word often connected with workplaces. Yet, the ideals of self-respect, self-determination and self-reliance shed light on the role of the leader in preserving the dignity of every employee. How can leaders become champions of dignity?

  1. Examine the use and distribution of power and authority. Are there areas of over-control? Has there been unnecessary erosion of freedom? Reflect on the effect of over-control on competent adults. Are there examples of decisions that could be shared or delegated? Are there ways that employees could have increased self-determination in their work? Are there excessive trappings of "rank" or organizational classism?

  2. Enslaved by the Rule Book Attempts to make things "fair," or "consistent," often result in what Peter Block refers to as "corporate totalitarianism," over-regulation, which has a stultifying effect on employee's ability to act and the leader's ability to exercise judgment. Playing everything safe and always erring on the side of the rule book is a recipe for paralysis and loss of creativity.

  3. Build up self-respect. Look for opportunities to build sense of contribution and value. Ask for and truly listen to opinions and ideas. Engage people in problem solving and brainstorming. Convey appreciation for what each person brings to the table.

  4. Root out and eliminate anything that erodes self-respect. Define what indignity means in the workplace. Then, start with yourself. Stand firm against bullying, crudeness, offensive behavior and jokes and anything that undermines the dignity of any person. Set high standards for the treatment of colleagues, customers and others.

Most people want to be part of an organization where the leaders preserve the dignity of everyone; where leaders understand the importance of self-respect, self-determination and self-reliance. Being a champion of dignity for all is essential to leadership in teams, organizations, communities and institutions.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1. When you think of "dignity" in the workplace, what do you think of?

2. Have you observed situations where the over-use of power, authority or rules has

had the effect of eroding employees' dignity? Give examples.

3. What can leaders do to preserve the dignity, self-respect and self-determination of all

people in an organization?

4. What are the implications for leaders? For you?

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