Putting yourself first

Self-respect in the workplace can help create a safe and healthy workplace

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The basics of self respect

What does self respect look like in the workplace?

The language of boundary setting

Quotes on self-respect

What does an oxygen mask have to do with a respectful workplace?

They both identify the need to help yourself first before you can care effectively for others.

If you want to better care for and relate to others, health experts encourage you to put yourself first. Regard and respect the person you spend the most time with…yourself. The most important relationship - the one you have with yourself - sets a tone for all of our other reactions.

Are you considering self-respect during your workday?

A survey identified that 31 per cent of the working population experiences chronic working stress. That means it's important to change the things we can control to improve our overall health and wellbeing and reduce our stress. Add to that the stress and trauma that can come from being a caregiver and prioritizing our physical and mental health has never been so important.

Respect for self

A person who respects themselves treats themselves and others in a healthy way. When you respect yourself, you are mindful of how you move in the world. You can set boundaries with your time and energy so you can work in the most effective way to meet your identified objectives and goals in your position. You can manage realistic expectations about what you can accomplish and ask for help when you need it.

Ideally support for even simple actions like this comes from both the top down and bottom up. Self respectful choices like setting boundaries, being clear and asking for help can actually help us enhance our communication with coworkers and create a healthier workplace.

"If you really think about it, the more engaged you feel in your organization, the more you feel connected to and supported by your peers, and the more trust you have amongst teams, the greater the odds that you'll be able to create an environment where you can address conflict in a healthy and respectful way," says Jill Desilets, a Workplace Wellness Coordinator with Seven Oaks General Hospital.

It only takes a moment to stop and think before we speak or act. But it's a moment that could be worthwhile to ensure what you're doing or saying is respecting both yourself and coworkers.

"Ultimately it's about owning your piece of accountability - not pointing fingers. What are you going to do to own accountability?" asks Desilets.  We can't change other people but we can influence everyone around us through our own behaviour.

Often when respect is discussed, the idea of treating others the way you want to be treated comes up. For some people, the truth is that we treat others better than we treat ourselves.

That's why respect for self is an important element to consider in creating and fostering respectful professional relationships.

An example of respect for self in action

Interruption is a common issue. In fact, when managers were surveyed, they identified interruptions as the number one barrier to working.

You have a task you're focused on. A colleague keeps interrupting with something that can wait. You handle it how?

  1. By snapping at them. Don't they know you're busy?
  2. By telling them you'll finish what you're working on and will touch base with them in a bit.
  3. By telling everyone else but the person their interruption was disruptive.

Health and wellness experts say if you're behaving with respect for self in the workplace, you'll choose "B".

"If you have someone that keeps interrupting you, it's your responsibility to set forth your expectations - long term or short term. You can say, ‘I'd love to have this conversation but I'm just going to finish what I'm working on and I'll call you when I have a minute so I can give you my full, undivided attention.' This culture has to be able to exist in the workplace," says Desilets.

Unnecessary interruptions, along with other disrespectful behaviours in the workplace, can trigger your physiological response to stress.  For example, if you're irritated but lack the language to express yourself or set a boundary, your heart rate goes up.

"Our automatic nervous system has a fight or flight response," explains Desilets. "When we are faced with a challenging or stressful situation, our body's natural reaction is to prep us for action. Our blood pressure and heart rate go up, a surge of adrenaline is released into our body, and cortisol is pumped into our bloodstream. This response has been hardwired into our system from early caveman days when a physical response to stress (such as escaping danger) was most common. It is important to realize, though, that our stresses have changed over the years but our physiological responses haven't, leaving us more vulnerable to the side effects. If we don't deal with stress in a healthy way, we carry tension in our shoulders, have chronic high blood pressure, experience weight gain, and many other symptoms."

Considering this, it is not only important to address work issues to simply have better flow and communication in the workplace, but to take care of our own health. When we maintain self respect in the workplace, we are able to advocate for our best resource: ourselves.

The basics of self respect

  1. Protect your most precious resource: you.
  2. Speak honestly.
  3. Set boundaries.
  4. Ask for help.
  5. Be compassionate with yourself.
  6. Think about how your behaviour affects others.
  7. Before speaking, think.
  8. Take responsibility for yourself and your behaviour.

What does self respect look like in the workplace?

It means respecting the person you spend the most time with - you.

By making these choices to respect yourself in the workplace, you're also contributing to creating a more respectful workplace for those you work with.

  1. Make sure you take time to eat a meal and recharge.
  2. Set appropriate boundaries with people and for yourself.
  3. And don't take it personally when they set one with you.
  4. Manage expectations about what you can and can't do. Don't overpromise and under deliver. If people know what to expect, it sets a positive tone for your working rapport.
  5. Work reasonable hours. Yes there are times when we need to pitch in and put in extra time and energy to get things done. If we do this for a long period of time, we risk burnout.
  6. Ask your family and friends to limit personal calls and emails so you can focus on your work.
  7. Wherever possible, schedule your day in a way that works best for you.
  8. Designate times to return phone calls and emails so you can stay focused on the task at hand.
  9. Do not take on more than you can handle.
  10. If you're not able to accept a new project or assignment without added stress and the potential to run yourself ragged, ask your manager for help with the task. Can additional supports be added? Will you receive their support in setting parameters with the assignment?
  11. Ask for help. It's a myth that asking for help makes us weak. You may be surprised at the opportunities for collaboration and support you receive when you ask for what you need.

The language of boundary setting

We may be fluent in the language of health care but are we fluent in healthy communication techniques? Do we know and have the language to set boundaries?

"We need to educate people on how to express things respectfully. How can I have this conversation that has less focus on emotion and more on problem solving so we're not defending territory? What are your needs? What are my needs? How can we move this forward to make it work for the both of us?" says Desilets.

Three things to keep in mind with self-respectful boundary setting

  1. Use "I" statements.
  2. Focus on the issue at hand.
  3. Keep it short and sweet.

Quotes on self-respect

"Respect yourself and others will respect you."
- Confucius

"Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power."
- Clint Eastwood

"Respect yourself if you would have others respect you."
- Baltasar Gracian

"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me . . . All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
- Jackie Robinson

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