Respect is earned.
How do you feel when you hear that statement? Are you in total agreement with it? Or do you think that it is complete insanity?
Before you answer, let’s begin with a simple experiment.
Take a moment to look at the two groups of professionals listed below:
Group A: Physician, attorney, accountant, university professor, pilot, engineer, scientist, and CEO.
Group B: Waiter, flight attendant, nurse, customer service representative, coffee barista, retail employee, valet, bank teller, cashier, bell hop, grocery store bagger/cashier, receptionist, and hotel maid.
Keep it real with me.
Which group deserves more of your respect and admiration? Don’t struggle with this question–it should be a fairly easy one to answer.
Made your choice?
Before I tell you my answer, allow me to share with you what an acquaintance of mine said when I asked her the same question:
Group A, obviously.
According to her, they are the ones who are highly credentialed, well-educated, and well-compensated for their highly specialized skills. These are the thought leaders who are making the world a better place for all of us.
She wasn’t done.
I’m paraphrasing of course, but this was her less-than-enlightened take on the service professionals in Group B:
“They’re dime-a-dozen losers who should be embarrassed by the lack of value that they offer to society. They do not deserve our respect, they deserve our pity. Instead of asking for respect, they need to get into a classroom and get a damn degree so that they can do something meaningful with their sorry lives instead of flipping burgers or bagging my groceries. Respect is earned.”
The funny thing was that after she said that to me, she paused and smiled proudly as if she was waiting for me to give her a high-five or a hug or something. I honestly think that she believed that she said something profound.
It was profound. Profoundly stupid.
I’ll admit that I’m overly sensitive about this topic.
I have spent many years as a service professional, I have many close friends who are service professionals, and now I’m entrusted to oversee a department for a Top 3 U.S. Hospital System whose responsibility is to train thousands of service professionals each year on customer service.
My love and respect for service professionals runs very deep.
And based on what I’ve been hearing from my friends out in the field, my acquaintance’s attitude about the service professionals in Group B is not all that uncommon.
I believe that the lack of respect, kindness, and positivity toward service professionals might be a sign of an even bigger problem.
Is there a “respect crisis” in our society toward service professionals?
Do people really need to earn our respect before we choose to give it to them?
Everyone Starts Off With an A+
Listening to my acquaintance’s twisted rant made me reflect on something that I previously never gave a second thought before our conversation a few months ago.
If a person treats me nicely, but has a habit of intentionally treating service professionals with disrespect (or anyone, really), does that make him/her someone that’s worth hanging out with?
That’s an easy question for me to answer now.
I’ve always believed that you can tell a lot about a person based on how they treat service professionals, and my acquaintance proved my theory is still working flawlessly.
Hopefully we all agree on this simple idea: Basic respect for other human beings isn’t something that needs to be earned.
I mean seriously, doesn’t that sound bizarre? I completely understand if people feel that trust needs to be earned, but earning respect?
That’s just crazy talk.
Basic human respect should be a given.
Please don’t get me wrong though, there’s nothing wrong with losing respect for people, but everyone should start off with basic human respect without having to earn it from us first.
It’s like one of my college professors used to say: “everyone in the class starts off with an A+, but it was up to us (the students) to keep it that way.”
I believe that same idea should apply to respect.
Last week, I talked about how stress can make us treat our loved ones poorly, but now I want to focus on the people who intentionally choose to be rude to other people.
Sadly, there are quite a few people who thoroughly enjoy acting in a disrespectful manner and making themselves feel superior at the expense of others.
It’s sickening and it has to stop.
As far as I’ve mentioned before, and I’ll happily keep mentioning until I’m blue in the face (which would be pretty tough for me, for obvious reasons), but there is no excuse for rudeness and disrespect.
Rudeness is often a by-product of a lack of respect. Not to sound like Captain Obvious here, but most people don’t choose to be rude and disrespectful to people who they respect, do they?
Take my acquaintance, for instance.
For whatever misguided reason, she doesn’t respect service professionals. Even worse, she will not offer service professionals any kindness, dignity, or respect until they somehow earn the right to receive those things from her.
Do you think that she feels the same way about her physician? One of her grad school professors? Her boss?
Without actually coming out and saying it, my acquaintance basically told me that she consciously makes a choice to give kindness and respect to some people and withhold it from other people.
And she bases her decision solely on what those people choose to do for a living.
This makes absolutely no sense to me.
I hope that you feel the same way too.
Grocery Store Bagger Swagger
I feel safe in saying that my acquaintance is not making the world a more positive place.
She definitely isn’t making it a positive place for the men and women who find themselves as members of Group B, that’s for sure.
The irony in all of this is that I believe that it is the men and women in Group B who are using their expertise to truly make the world a positive place for all of us.
And they’re doing it as much–if not more so–than the people in Group A.
Don’t believe that their jobs require expertise?
Let’s use an example that most people take for granted: a grocery store bagger.
Next time you head to the grocery store, please realize that the person who is bagging your groceries is doing a hell of a lot more than mindlessly stuffing your groceries into a paper or plastic bag. Most likely, she is…
- Examining you and making an educated guess about how much you can carry in and out of your cart and into your vehicle–that will likely determine how heavy or light to make the bags.
- Analyzing the type of products that should be bagged together as they’re flying down the conveyor belt at her. Bug repellent probably shouldn’t be placed in the same bag with your lettuce. Frozen foods should all go in the same bags. Raw chicken probably shouldn’t be in the same bag with little Jimmy’s fruit snacks, etc.
- Strategically loading your bag so that the bags do not rip or that any of the food ends up damaged. Putting your 12-pack of Dr. Pepper on top of your bag of tomatoes probably wouldn’t be a great idea.
- Doing all of this quickly to ensure that you don’t have to wait longer than 1-2 minutes after you have paid for all of your groceries.
- Well-versed in where every item in the store is located and in which aisle, so that she’s prepared when you inevitably forget to pick up something, and you need to know quickly where to find it.
- Tired, has sore feet, is underpaid, but is still managing to keep a smile on her face and keep her faith in humanity even though many of the people that she encounters each day have little respect for her or what she does for her customers everyday.
If Merriam-Webster defines an expert as someone, “Having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge from training or experience,” then there is zero doubt that this woman is an expert.
If you still doubt that this woman’s work requires expertise, then I challenge anyone reading this to find a busy grocery store and try bagging groceries for an hour. Just an hour. Trust me, you’ll change your mind after 10 minutes–if you even make it that long.
I am convinced that a large part of the problem (besides a lack of basic human empathy) is that most non-service people have no clue how challenging it is to perform a service job every single day.
Grocery store baggers and service professionals all over the world, it’s time to embrace your swagger.
You’ve earned it.
The New Reality of Respect
Without the grocery store bagger’s expertise and her commitment to making the world a more positive place through her service, the CEO in Group A cannot exist.
Continuing with the grocery store scenario, the CEO sits comfortably in her office because of the exceptional men and women who work on the front line bagging the customers’ groceries correctly and efficiently, understanding the ins-and-outs of her store, and doing everything they can to get the customers to happily return to her store in the future to buy her company’s groceries.
Simply put, the service professionals in Group B make the people in Group A possible. At the very least, without Group B, there is no chance that the people in Group A would be nearly as effective.
So, let’s revisit my original question:
Who deserves more of your admiration and respect–the people in Group A or Group B?
The answer is still obvious.
Group B, right?
They both deserve respect.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
There are no varying degrees of respect. Group A or B hasn’t earned more respect than the other group. Unless you have some serious issues, like my acquaintance.
The only way to end the “respect crisis” is with our unwavering willingness to share positivity, kindness, and respect with everyone who we encounter–especially for our service professionals who don’t hear a sincere “thank you” nearly as much as they should.
Most importantly, for all of the service professionals reading this, please know that my goal is to create a world where you’ll never feel the need to fight for anyone’s respect just because you’re in a service role.
Speaking for me, and the millions of other people who deeply appreciate you and your hard work, please know that respect isn’t something that you’ll ever need to earn from us.
It takes a very special person to dedicate their careers to serving others.
That’s why all of you, without exception, have had our respect and admiration all along.
Is respect something that is earned? Do service professionals receive enough respect and appreciation for what they do? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!