In my work as a peace-building trainer and dialogue facilitator, dignity is situated at the center of all I do. Dignity is our inherent value as human beings. Though our dignity can be violated, it cannot be taken from us. In this three-part series, we have explored what it means to live a life of dignity and how we can be dignity ambassadors in the workplace by exploring five dignity practices. In this final article, we explore five “ways of being” that are necessary in order to honor the dignity of others.
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Dignity is foundational to the concept of peace. In fact, there can be no peace without dignity. Dignity is so important to the concept of peace, that in the United Nations’ milestone document, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the concept of dignity is established as the foundation of all human rights. Article 1 states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
If you follow my work and writing, you have heard me say many times, Peace is human security and the ability to live a life of dignity that is free of fear. Human security means that we consistently experience a fulfillment of our basic human needs such as: our need to have our identity acknowledged and honored; our need for participation and recognition; as well as physical, emotional, and psychological security. Human needs also include our need for belonging, love, self-esteem, and personal fulfillment.
Restorative justice is a process for achieving justice that helps to restore the dignity of all people involved in a wrong-doing and puts into place a framework for each person involved to have the opportunity to share in their mutual human development. Restorative practices was born out of the restorative justice discipline.
Recently a well-intended and trusted friend mentioned to me that I might want to tone down the “peace” talk in the my external communications and use language corporate leadership is more familiar and comfortable with. I know why she made the recommendation. People do not want to talk about peace in the workplace. It sounds mushy, woo-woo, and soft. Adjectives no one in the workplace wants to be associated with.
There is nothing soft about peace. Quite the opposite.
Workplace conflict is often understood as any conflict that prevents the flow of work. From that perspective, conflict in the workplace is normal, and, when managed productively, can even have positive benefits such as improved problem-solving, increased understanding among team members, improved team performance, and increased motivation, etc. However, conflict that is managed poorly, or not managed at all, can become systemic and transform into a form of abuse knows as “mobbing.”
Workplace collaboration is a popular buzzword these days. And, of course, collaboration is critical to innovation, problem-solving, creativity, dispute resolution, and a myriad intellectual pursuits necessary to the workplace. That said … have you ever stopped to think about how so many attempts to increase collaboration actually have the opposite effect?
From small indignities such as not giving credit where credit is due to much larger dignity violations such as sexual harassment or experiencing bullying behavior from a peer or supervisor, most of us have experienced a workplace conflict in which an apology would have gone a long way toward making amends and helping a relationship and/or project get back on track.
If you have done any reading or studying about the shared characteristics of highly effective leaders, you have no doubt read about emotional intelligence — a phrase coined by two psychologists and academicians, John Mayer, of the University of New Hampshire, and Peter Salovey of Yale University and made popular by Danial Goleman in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Emotional intelligence is critical to effective leadership, and it is equally essential for cultivating a workplace culture of peace — a culture that fosters human security and dignity.
Asking for a pay increase. Providing critical feedback on performance. Addressing inappropriate behavior. Apologizing. These are examples of hard-to-have, but necessary, workplace conversations.