Our interpersonal rights and responsibilities in the workplace

 Dec 17, 2014

As individuals in the workplace, I sense that some staff (for example, those in more junior positions, some employees from different cultural backgrounds, or possibly new employees) are unaware of their interpersonal rights. These rights are not legislated; they are rights by virtue of the fact that we are human beings. With every right, however, comes a responsibility and they are intertwined. The rights and responsibilities I’d like to consider are: the right to be heard, the right to say you don’t know, and the right to make a mistake. You have the right to be heard. Your opinions, thoughts and views can be expressed, irrespective of seniority or circumstance. Your responsibility however, is to listen; to hear the opinions, thoughts and views of others. It goes without saying that others may have different views from your own, just as your views may differ from theirs. In the office, these differing views should be held with respect. Person A: “I believe that this is the wrong approach to take because...” Person B: “I appreciate what you’ve said. I’d like to share a different view...” You have the right to say you don’t know.  While it is an expectation that as a professional, you have sound job knowledge, you can’t and don’t know everything. Your responsibility is to offer to find out and broaden your knowledge. Person A: “Do you know who’s responsible for organising X?” Person B: “Let me find out for you.” You have the right to make a mistake.  We all make them from time to time and they are unlikely to be deliberate. A repetition of the same mistake however, is careless. Therefore, your responsibility is to learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them. Secondly, while we do make mistakes, there are some which may have significant consequences and we may very well have to bear the responsibility for them. For example, if you’ve made an error processing an order which results in a late delivery, it is understandable that that you will have to take the responsibility for correcting the matter with the client. Client: “...and the order hasn’t been delivered, and our customer is furious at the delay.” You: “I apologise sincerely and I appreciate that this is an unacceptable situation. Here’s how I’d like to proceed so that we can rectify it. First, I’m going to do...” The key to interpersonal relationships is respect. Provided that we treat each other with respect and acknowledge our responsibilities, we have the right to be heard, to admit when we don’t know something, and to make mistakes.

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About the Author:

Fee Hosking  

With over 24 years experience as a trainer, Fee is one of our most senior Professional Development trainers at New Horizons Sydney. With a professional background as a management consultant in the South African manufacturing industry, Fee brings credibility, experience and authenticity to all of the subjects that she trains. She has the ability to engage professionals from the junior to the senior level. Bringing great energy to the classroom, Fee ensures that the learning experience for all who attend is an enjoyable one, which in turn makes it a truly impactful one.

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