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BLOG: Owning the outcome – living the value of respect

March 19, 2020  By Tanya Wick

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of blogs about women in the forestry workforce written by Tanya Wick, vice-president of people and services at Tolko Industries. 

Respect. It’s a word we hear and use often. But what does it really mean, and what does it really look like in practice in the workplace?

Respect is a central component to diversity and inclusion. We simply won’t create an inclusive workplace without respect. What do we mean in our environment when we talk about this value? By painting a picture of the behaviours associated with respect, we can ensure we are all creating a shared image.

As a conversation starter, here are few tangible examples of what respectful and inclusive behaviour looks like to me.


Recognize your bias

We all have biases based on our own unique experiences. The important thing is to recognize them so we can make a conscious effort to catch ourselves and behave differently. Ask trusted colleagues for candid feedback and take a 360-degree approach to seeking input. Be conscious of the words and physical reactions that surface when interacting with others and be mindful, respectful, curious and supportive of differences.

Give back or pay it forward

Mentoring is one of the most valuable and effective development opportunities an employee can have, especially to those from under-represented groups. Mentors can ‘give back’ by providing guidance and advice to someone less experienced than themselves. Where mentorship tends to be a more formalized relationship, sponsorship is more ad hoc but is an extremely powerful way to elevate others. Sponsors can ‘pay it forward’ by making use of their connections in the organization to elevate the level of exposure an employee might need to be considered for development or special projects.

Choose to be an upstander

If a disrespectful or demeaning comment goes unchecked, it not only erodes the self-worth and esteem of the person receiving the comment, but it is also normalized. Upstanders speak up or act in support of others, thereby discouraging this unwanted behaviour. The struggle people have is how to do it respectfully. This can take some practice and it’s important to find a way that is comfortable for you. Talking about it privately versus publicly or looking for opportunities to support positive behaviour rather than addressing the negative ones may be most suited to your style. Think of it as a new skill you will need to practice to become comfortable with it.

Amplify and recognize others

When people are talked over or see others getting credit for their good ideas, they stop talking and innovation is squashed. If you see this happen, you can give them a voice by saying, “I agree with [person] on their idea of….” or “I’m not sure that [person] was done explaining and I would like to hear the rest.”  Small actions; big impact.

Collaborate openly

It’s natural for people to rely on the opinion of a small group of peers. To inspire innovation, try asking a peer who you don’t usually engage with for their opinion. Remember to be open to suggestions even (especially!) if it varies from your own. By remaining open, you may be able to recognize and interrupt your own unconscious bias. Challenge yourself to actively relate to a different perception.

Be curious

Take deliberate actions that disrupt your “normal” process to help prevent biases from shaping your decisions and behaviours. Look for the positive in people and don’t make assumptions. Ask questions, be open, and take responsibility for learning about diverse backgrounds. Often a positive and curious question can interrupt your own usual process and help you learn something new.

Each of us can commit to a heightened awareness of the little things we can do to shift our own assumptions and behaviours. A series of small actions make a huge difference – positively or negatively – just like a series of snowflakes can eventually cause an avalanche. They are small on their own but together they can change a landscape.

Let’s keep moving forward together.

Tanya Wick is the vice-president of people and services at Tolko. This blog was originally published by Tolko. Republished with permission.


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