9 March 2012

Respect for individuals makes life easier

Scrum and XP expressly call for respect for people in their value statements, and the Agile Manifesto reminds us that individuals and interactions are of primary importance.  How does this affect us on a day to day level?

Yesterday I went to a mandatory EEO briefing session at work.   What struck me was how rooted in a Marxist, adversarial world-view our employment law seems to be.  Upon further listening and reflection, it seems it is less the law and more management's defensive response to risks and issues highlighted in legislation and case law.

While I am not an expert in the field I have a few ideas I'd like to share.

  • By respecting people (even annoying people like me) you are able to have open conversations and address issues that otherwise might be deemed risky, and this deferred, hidden and allowed to escalate until they become larger and more difficult to deal with
  • By putting the manager 'in charge' of dealing with worker issues like discrimination and harassment, the workforce are dis-empowered, leading to a likelihood of issues coming up
  • By focusing on failure modes (ie what could go wrong), HR policy seems to lead to managers operating out of a fear and compliance mindset rather than one focusing on positive outcomes, which for the most part can be achieved by...
  • Building a workplace that encourages mutual respect for each other 
Respect not only helps us have a workplace free from harassment and discrimination, it also enables us to work more effectively as a team.  Rather than some notion of fairness, where everyone must contribute equally, we are more likely to work from a perspective of everyone does their best for the team's interests, and it doesn't matter whether the contribution is equal. (After all, it can't be.)  This then saves us time worrying about unequal contributions, the best desks, who gets to work earliest, etc.

I am curious to see what you guys think.  What affects do you observe from teams that focus on respect for individuals versus ones where respect is less prominent.

(edit: 2 minutes after hitting 'post' I came across this blog post at Customer Bliss. Worth taking a look.)


  1. I've actually been thinking a lot about the need for respect and kindness in all relationships. I tell my son every day before school to remember to be respectful and kind, but I realized it is a good reminder for me too. It is too easy to be negative but it is nearly impossible to work as a team when when respect and kindness isn't there. Thanks for this post.

    1. thanks Heather, I appreciate the comment. It's good to practice what we try to teach our children. they are very helpful reminders.

  2. Craig, check out also this link: