• Adrian Cargal

Culture of Respect - Do You Have What It Takes?

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview some members of my new military organization to get their insight on what a Culture of Respect looks like. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our unit is successful in this endeavor. Transparency and effective communication are evident and everyone seeks to inform, include, involve, and inspire one another. Following are the interpretations of these interviews and my synopsis of each topic.

What would an organization with a Culture of Respect look like?

All four interviewees expressed that people within a Culture of Respect value all perspectives. Equal representation from all walks of life is present and employees feel empowered to support the mission. Some of the words that jumped out at me were "cohesive", "communication", "trust", and "dignity". The statements from the individuals that I interviewed align very much with my take on a Culture of Respect. In order for an organization adopt this ideal, trust and vulnerability are a must. A Growth Mindset where people can feel valued enough to share their thoughts, receive actionable, constructive feedback, and then put that feedback into practice is needed in order to maintain that culture.

How do you build this type of organizational culture?

In order to build a Culture of Respect, people should feel informed, included, involved, and inspired. The people I interviewed attested to those statements in some form or fashion. Having transparent communication is a key factor in developing a respectful culture. Building relationships where people feel they can express ideas freely and that their perspective is valued by the organization should be a main focus. If employees feel like they are cared for and valued, then productivity increases.

How should or does leadership address toxic behaviors in the workplace?

Toxic behaviors can creep into the workplace like a contagious disease. If not addressed swiftly, then the toxicity can spread. This behaviors must be eliminated in a tactful way, addressing the issue, but serving as a learning experience that assists the employee in future endeavors. Appropriate corrections must be made in a way that channels productivity and personal development. Most of the time, counseling and training can alleviate the situation.

How do you see the broadened definition of diversity taking hold throughout the Department of Defense?

All four interviewees agreed that diversity is what makes our country unique, in that there are so many people with different background experiences and cultures that can provide a wealth of ingenuity and perspectives needed in order to enhance our organization. We must embrace the idea of diversity in order for maximum performance to occur. If we promote a culture of inclusion, then we have the advantage of developing best practices and working toward a common goal with collaborative techniques.

What is your perspective of diversity within our organization and the greater Air Force?

Because I am new to the military organization, I have no reference point for this topic. From my perspective, diversity is embraced within the Air Force. Everyone I have met is very respectful and follows certain policies when addressing people or communicating ideas. My interviewees believe that the greater Air Force is performing due diligence by bringing different perspectives to the table.

How can our unit improve its response to individuals who feel disrespected or harassed in any way?

As a new employee, I have noticed much awareness regarding harassment, mainly sexual. There are posters and fliers on the walls and in the bathrooms with contact information and procedures in place to file complaints. There is training provided as well that addresses disrespect and harassment, how to identify it, and who you can talk to if this occurs. My interviewees stated that it is important to listen, care, and act on situations that are unethical in nature because they can create low morale very quickly. They identified inside and outside agencies in the form of EOCs, anonymous drop boxes, first line supervisors, shirt, and senior command leadership. Outside agencies like legal, IG, Equal Opportunity office, Civilian Personnel Office, etc. are available, accessible, and readily responsive.

So, as I transition to this new environment from public education to military education, I cannot help but compare both experiences. There are clear and concise procedures and policies encouraging diversity, respect, and collaboration that sometimes I felt were not present in my previous career. I must say that I am pleased with the infrastructure within the Air Force that embraces the idea that people are our greatest assets and should be respected, developed, promoted, and utilized effectively so that productivity, innovation, and ingenuity can thrive.

I believe that the military is on to something called "a culture of calling in". Loretta J. Ross has the details on this concept. She has some knowledge that we could all learn from in the area of accepting others and valuing their perspective.

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