Website(s) of the Week: Dignity, Humiliation, and “Rankism”

The quest for dignity at work cannot be undertaken in a vacuum.  We need to change values, attitudes, and behaviors in society as a whole.  Considering the social, political, and economic ideas that have prevailed over the past several decades, this may seem like a dream.  But some visionary pioneers are pointing the way:

Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) (http://www.humiliationstudies.org) [link fixed–DY] is a global network of scholars, practitioners, and activists who are committed to advancing human dignity and ending humiliation.  HumanDHS was founded by physician and social scientist Evelin Lindner (http://www.humiliationstudies.org/whoweare/evelin.php), a true global citizen and scholar.  The new HumanDHS director is psychologist Linda Hartling (http://www.humiliationstudies.org/whoweare/linda.php), whose important work on applying relational-cultural psychology to the workplace will be discussed in future blog entries.

The term “humiliation” may make us uncomfortable, as it represents one of the most agonizing of human experiences.  But we need to remember that attempts to humiliate people in the workplace are common:  sexual harassment, workplace bullying, and so-called “exit parades” of laid-off employees are but a few.  The leaders of HumanDHS have aptly and courageously recognized that affirming human dignity requires that we acknowledge the destructive impact of humiliation.

The building of a “dignitarian” society is the goal of Robert Fuller, a physicist, activist, and former college president who has been calling for an end to “rankism,” his term for the abuse of rank in our society.  His website, shared with co-author Pamela Gerloff, is a great introduction to his work and publications: http://www.breakingranks.net/.  The site includes information about Fuller’s very readable books about dignity and rankism.

You may find yourself starting to borrow the terms Fuller has coined, for once they become part of your everyday thinking, you see patterns of rankism and unnecessary hierarchy in many different settings.  Fuller, like the fine people of Human DHS, is helping to create a dialogue and a vocabulary that (re)introduce some core ideas about how we should conduct ourselves and treat others.

“Website(s) of the Week” is an ongoing feature of Minding the Workplace.

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