A fairly high-ranking individual from our work place once described her experience on the first day of starting here. Since nobody knew who she was she was treated accordingly, with little attention and getting mostly ignored. I know that I myself walked past her a few times one day, because I was busy, because I didn’t know who she was, because in my eyes she didn’t seem to be very important.
Why would you only pay important people the respect you think they deserve? When is someone important enough to warrant your immediate attention? What is it that signals our brains how to react and who to pay attention to? Is it their appearance or our past experience?
I felt bad that I was just as guilty of ignoring her, although I usually pride myself in greeting anyone I meet with at least a smile and ask if I can help when someone is clearly looking lost. Could it be that our important lady didn’t look lost enough? Did she maybe have a subtle demeanour of reassurance about herself, the kind that only she knew about, the power to sack you on the spot, yet which nonetheless seeped through and radiated a sense of not really needing directions?
This humbling experience made me even more conscious of the fact that you just don’t know who you have in front of you. And it really doesn’t matter whether it’s the Queen of Timbuktu or a street dog that crosses your path. Anyone deserves a certain amount of respect. And ever since I have made a double effort to treat everyone with the same respect – not anyone any more or anyone else any less.
Today I went to all the different departments at work to distribute a leaflet for a regular gathering of a certain grade of employee. The multitude of different reactions I got from every single department still goes through my mind. Mostly I encountered the expected initial few moments of being ignored. Some I had to tap on the shoulder after waiting patiently a few more moments, others decided to see me and ask if I needed something. Some reacted stressed, others disinterested. A few looked at me suspiciously, a few others were really open and interested. One barked at me what it was I wanted now, another wasn’t quite sure why I was talking to them.
I was at all times open, friendly, smiling, asking for the kind of employee I was after. The difference in reactions was astounding, interesting and most of all exhausting. Such is the human genius I suppose. I like to think what it would be like if I was someone with a high influence that would deserve an equally high level of respect? And again, why don’t I deserve that kind of respect as a simple enthusiastic individual on a mission to unite a workforce of employees and to help them have a voice? Are we humans really that ignorant to separate low-ranking from high-ranking people and treat them accordingly?
According to what?
May I suggest you stop judging others and start respecting them instead? The world would definitely be a much better place that way.