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Respect & Equality Go Hand-In-Hand

Respect & Equality Go Hand-In-Hand

Call me a nerd, but I love watching The Great Australian Spelling Bee on Channel 10 at the moment. And here is why it is such a joy to watch – children with talent, selected on merit not gender, race or colour, displaying good sportsmanship, teamwork and good manners! I believe we are born equal as human beings, and until children are exposed to racism, discrimination and bullying, they are completely unaware of it! I believe racism, prejudice and misogyny are learned behaviours.

I think leaders across industries, organisations and governments can learn a lot from these 8 to 11-year olds about respect, supportive behaviour and good manners. You watch them encourage each other in a competition where they are competitors, “high fiving” each other when they succeed, and genuinely disappointed when their peers fail. They are completely respectful of each other, the moderator and the question master. They have not yet learnt disrespect, and here’s hoping they never do.

Imagine if we had workplaces and a society which genuinely respected people who are different to themselves, sought to be supportive of their peers, engaged in teamwork and genuinely celebrated the successes of their peers and competitors. Harvard Business School in a research study in 2009 found that organisations which value and promote collaboration, and discourage internal silos are 250% more productive than organisations which are internally competitive and have a silo mentality. This means greater productivity = greater profitability, or greater cost control and efficiency.


Events over the past month involving Adam Goodes and booing, Donald Trump’s appalling comments about women – more than once, and the current government’s resistance to marriage equality all demonstrate one thing – a complete lack of respect for race, colour, women and sexual orientation. There are multiple forms of discrimination not listed here, however, these are the most prominent in the media and therefore in people’s minds. Each of these instances have shown a complete lack of respect for Adam Goodes as an indigenous man of colour, Donald Trump’s complete lack of respect for women and the current government’s lack of respect for people’s choice of marriage partner and judging their sexual orientation as contrary to “tradition or the norm”. Whose tradition, whose norm – theirs rather than the people they are disrespecting?

Respect is based on seeking to understand those who are different to us, then accepting those differences, not tolerating them – tolerance is superficial and patronising. If we want true equality in workplaces and societies, then it is time to show genuine respect for women, indigenous people, people of colour, different religions, different sexual orientation, in fact anyone who is different to each of us. We need to stop judging, expecting people to “fit in” and assimilate! Let’s look at how we embrace diversity in all its forms, to generate greater innovation and creativity, rather than the current practice of seeking conformity. Conformity simply gives us more of the same, and when we do what we have always done, we will get what we always got!

If we want to create a better, more equitable world, we cannot do it by re-creating the past. In the workplace and society of today and tomorrow, Respect is IN, Power is OUT!


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