Donna Hicks is an international affairs professor at Harvard and author of Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict (2011). I thought I’d share this short passage from her Introduction (p.4):
Dignity is a birthright. We have little trouble seeing this when a child is born; there is no question about children’s value and worth. If only we could hold onto this truth about human beings as they grow into adults, if only we could continue to feel their value, then it would be so much easier to treat them well and keep them safe from harm. Treating others with dignity, then, becomes the baseline for our interactions.
Applying this to the workplace
What if treating employees with dignity became “the baseline for our interactions” at work? How much would the experience of work improve, leading to a happier, healthier, more productive, and more loyal workforce?
In the U.S., we’re still at a point where urging the embrace of human dignity by our systems of employment relations may get you branded as a left-wing idealist who doesn’t understand the market needs and competitive values of the modern workplace.
But what if we elevated human dignity to its proper role in society, including making it the framing concept for how we govern the workplace?
At the very least, what harm can it do to imagine the possibilities?
I explore some of the legal & policy issues related to dignity at work in “Human Dignity and American Employment Law,” University of Richmond Law Review (2009), freely downloadable here.