Amira is the director of a human rights organisation, over the years she’s seen colleagues burnout and she wants to do something preventive about it. While sipping a coffee we discuss the value of creating a caring and learning organisational culture. Words like “burnout”, “stress”, “wellbeing”, “meaning”, and “exhaustion”, come up in the conversation. Then I use the word “dignity”, and Amira’s face lights up, she reaches out and holds my hand. We’ve hit the heart of the matter: NGOs’ staff, volunteers, “beneficiaries” (we are all beneficiaries but that’s the theme of another post), we all want dignity. If you give me learning opportunities at work you create dignity, if you pop into my office to know how I am, again you create dignity, if you speak to me without obsessing with your iPhone at the same time, and by offering true presence, you create dignity and respect.
When I read this brief reflection on the gift of dignity and connection, I immediately wanted to share it with you out there:
‘Dignity is more important than wealth. Everyone needs “enough.” But once we have enough (and enough may be less than you think), what we crave and want is dignity. Given a choice between dignity and “more,” most people choose dignity. Respect matters. Respect in all things—for your employees, coworkers, and customers alike. The ultimate gift you can give, the one that will repay you today and tomorrow and heal our world, is that gift. The gift of connection, of art, of love—of dignity.’ (from Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?).
In a day we have endless opportunities to give dignity or to take it away from someone. It is simple gestures that do the trick. And in case you wonder, it’s not about ‘hippie dippy’ ‘let’s all agree’ kind of stuff. Quite the contrary. Wherever you may be, from Sudan to Burma, why not paying attention to the role that dignity and respect play in creating a learning and caring work environment?