Should respect be a given or earned?

There are social norms that we all follow dictating on an average interaction how we should operate with a basic level of respect.

I feel like 90% of respect is earned and 10% the basic level, a universal respect if you will, is given.

Meaning I treat you with respect, you treat me with respect.  The second that line gets blurred your respect meter starts to deplete rapidly.  Depending on the circumstance it can explode like a severed artery or drip like a paper cut.

On the flip side, if you maintain that initial dosage it solidifies to others  the principals in which you operate and ultimately starts filling the respect meter up.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m new to a group I generally stay quiet off to the side in observation of my new surroundings.  People assume I’m shy and have a hard time making connections.  That’s hardly the case.  In actuality I do this out of respect for the group dynamic and to learn the so called pecking order.

Every group whether it be social or professional has an operating procedure.  In my opinion it’s best to observe that process and slowly work your way in.  Diving in hole hog right off the jump can potentially put you in a situation where others opinions of you get skewed or misrepresent.

Let me give you an example, here’s a little story to better illustrate my point.

In my day job we are given uniforms to wear.  We change when we get to work and change back into street clothes when we leave.

Because of this we have lockers for our street clothes and hooks and hangers for our work clothes.

I am a long time employee with enough seniority and influence.

So a few years back we had a new employee start.  I come in to the locker room one day after my shift and my work clothes were on the floor.

I look at the two hooks my shirts used to be on and see a sweater, pants and shirts that aren’t mine.

Our names are on our clothes that made the investigation easy.  New guy!!

Like I said before i treat you with respect you treat me with respect once that line’s blurred the meter bleeds.

Since i operate under the idea that you should treat others the way you want to be treated.  I figured it was game on.  Time to show this young buck some manners and maybe get at him a little bit too.

His clothes then blanketed the floor.  Mine amazingly crawled back up the wall and onto the hooks.

Same thing happened the next morning.  I show up go to get changed… My clothes again on the floor.  This time nothing on the hooks.  No investigation needed… New guy!

Now it’s time for a discussion about the situation.

So i find new guy working in the shop.  Ask him why he tossed all my work clothes on the floor.

His response. “I needed hooks and you have lots.”

I pointed out the two other hooks he could have used.

His response “they’re broken.”

So at this point I should explain, this guy works for maintenance.  

I point out that he could very easily have maintenanced up some hooks for himself instead of tossing my clothes around the room in a tantrum.  So don’t touch my stuff.

I know it seems stupid and petty, even on my part.

As new members had started to join the team.   Little things kept getting moved around and changed up.  Most of the guys, had that base line respect, asking where things go, what they could use, etc.  This made sharing space with them much easier and more fluid.   

With “New Guy” I was drawing a line in the sand and staking my claim because I was getting fed up with having the perks I worked for moved or dolled out to new people just because they were new.

So to a certain extent I felt like I had to enforce a bit of a pecking order.  

The end result to the hooks was that, new guy eventually hung new hooks for himself.  Then he was made to hang more for everyone else, because now they wanted one too.  A bit of karma if you ask me, I know it drove him nuts.

I chose not to have any hooks hung and when asked which ones I wanted for my hard hat, jacket, sweater and harness.  I picked one of the original hooks just inside the entry way.

Now everyone has their own individual hooks problem solved…

You’d think.

Well a few months later, i was off shoveling on a cleaning day.  I was wearing my harness so my hook had nothing on it.  I guess that was the invitation to stake claim to it.  This only seems to happen to the hooks i use.  No one else seems to have these issues.

Any way, I get back to the hook. Go to hang up my harness and someone else’s harness is already there, I turn look into the lunchroom across the hall.  There’s new guy head down avoiding eye contact.  Everyone else in the lunch room is looking at me like “wasn’t me”.

So i take off my harness, then take the one off my hook.  Turn back to the lunch room and sternly say “hey new guy!”.

The whole lunch room looks over at me.  I’m not afraid of confrontation i find it a bit amusing.   With my arms spread like a soaring eagle,  harness’s in each fist, i look new guy direct in the eye and drop his harness in the middle of the hall, while hanging mine on it’s rightful perch.

About a half hour later I happen to walk passed new guy and our supervisor discussing who’s hook is who’s.  At one point I here my supervisor say “…because you hung your hook down the hall and he picked this one.”  So don’t hang your stuff here.”  New guy responds “I don’t remember that conversation”.  Supervisor responds “ok well look at this hook” (pointing to mine) “not your hook”.  Then he walks down to new guys hook points to it “your hook”.

The point is that you have to earn the respect of the people who came before you, by showing respect initially.   Not because you don’t deserve things, but because you need to build comradery.   Through that,  knowledge seamlessly flows through the group.  If you try to take over the space or the group, for your own gain.  Inevitably you miss out on guidance, knowledge and potentially greatness.  All due to an instance of disrespect and selfishness.  

It’s fun to mess with people from time to time just to let them know that your not a pushover.  But ultimately the ways in which you do those things is how they’ll perceive you and respond to you in the future.  It’s always better to have a little fun with it and send a message without making people feel bad about themselves.

As childish a scenario as this is, here’s what I gleamed from it.  First, some times you have to draw a line at minor issues to prove a bigger point.  Second, standing firm even on something simple provides those around you insight into your conviction and sense of self respect.  Finally, it’s ok to be a bit petty, as long as you recognize that you are being petty and that you see the humor and know how to leverage it from the situation to get a more positive result.

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2 replies »

  1. I agree with the idea that it should be a combination of the two. There are basic acts of respect that we should automatically give, whether we are meeting a person for the first time or not. After that, an individual can continue to gain my respect through their actions.


  2. I agree that respect should be earned but also as people we should have a basic level of respect for others regardless of seniority. “Treat others the way you would like them to treat you” was something we were told over and over in primary school and a good principle to live by.
    This was such a nice read!

    Liked by 1 person

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