Respect…Or Lack Thereof

Right now it’s hard to hear any business news that doesn’t include something about the Libor scandal and recently resigned Barclays CEO Robert Diamond. It seems some of the world’s major bankers, including Diamond, colluded to manipulate the Libor rate for personal gain. 

What’s fascinated me most is the way Diamond has responded. As near as I can tell, he started out believing he could just act like none of it had anything to do with him.  He was the wronged party, not the customers who were overcharged hundreds of millions of dollars.

He was dragged before a parliamentary committee in England to answer questions about what happened.  Apparently I am not the only one who believes the person at the top is ultimately responsible for such things.  As John Mann, member of Parliament, said, “either you were complicit, grossly negligent, or incompetent.” To which Diamond had no response.

Then there is the issue of respect…or lack thereof. While testifying, Diamond continually and often called the parliamentarians by their first names. They, of course, treated him with respect in spite of his perceived transgressions and obvious rudeness and always called him Mr Diamond. As one member of Parliament, Teresa Pearce tweeted with great understatement, “really annoying that Mr Diamond is using our first names. So rude.”

Of all the issues raised by this scandal, I found myself thinking about this the most. The simple issue of showing respect through the way you speak to others seems to be such a large window into your thinking, your character, what you believe is your place in the world, and your relationship to other people.  Coupled with the way you accept responsibility for problems or push blame off on other managers it forms a large part of the organization culture you create.

Do you set a culture of respect and responsibility or one of disrespect and blame? Do you build a culture fostering appropriate behavior always while taking accountability for your actions or one where it’s acceptable to break the rules as long as you don’t get caught?

Language is a window into your mind. How you express yourself delivers many messages beyond the meaning of the words themselves.  Often the other messages are more powerful and have a longer lasting effect than the words.

What messages are you sending unbeknownst to yourself? What culture are your messages building within your organization? Will it show well if you ever have to appear before Parliament?

  1. Again, Steve, I completely agree, EXCEPT when you say:

    “How you express yourself delivers many messages beyond the meaning of the words themselves. Often the other messages are more powerful and have a longer lasting effect than the words.”

    I would say the other messages ALWAYS are more powerful and have a longer lasting effect than the words themselves. As a test, think about how many things you can make the phrase “Thanks a lot” mean just by changing inflection. You will quickly see that it can mean everything from “I truly appreciate what you did for me” to an unprintable comment that ends with “. . .and the horse you rode in on.”

    More powerful and more memorable.

    Reply

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