One inspiration for writing E Pluribus Kinko’s was the fact that hundreds of former coworkers told me that Kinko’s was the best job they ever had. Some qualified the sentiment by saying it was the best job they ever had until they started their own business. For many, the experience at Kinko’s ranked so highly because it was like owning their own business.
I’ve since developed the habit of asking people what their best job was, and the recurring theme, although often expressed in different words, is respect.
They say, “the people” or, “independence,” but ultimately they describe a culture of respect, where people listen to, debate with, and trust one another. In a respectful environment, skeptics are welcome, but cynics are shunned. The organization values candor, and appreciates people for their unique strengths. In respectful cultures, coworkers ask a lot of questions – you can’t have a productive conversation if everyone begins with conclusions.
Think about the best job you ever had. Think about the worst job you ever had. Did you feel respected at the former and disrespected at the latter?
Respect is a tricky subject in our society, because baby-boomers and their children have worked hard to diminish the concept. Coming out of the repression of the 1950s, young Americans strove to think for themselves and avoid unwarranted influence from the biases of others. Unfortunately, by the late 1960s, that idea morphed into, “Do what you want and don’t listen to anybody else.” We’ve become increasingly inconsiderate and disrespectful ever since.
But the workplace is a wholly artificial environment, with a culture created and nurtured (intentionally or not) by the leadership. We can build cultures that value respect, even if our society does not. Look around your current workplace and ask the question: Do we value respect? If so, how do we show it? If not, how can we build a more respectful culture? How can we make this the best job our coworkers ever had?