At Work, Quality of Relationships Defines the Quality of Life

The quality of worklife keeps improving.


Over the past few years, working conditions for many people have worsened. Workload has increased, pay has been stagnant or dropping, and opportunities have shrunk.

Improvement is obvious when looking at the long term. In the 19th century, working conditions in factories and mills were oppressive and often deadly. Workplace hazards were just part of the cost of doing business. The balance of work to personal life was very much in favour of work. The standard of living was grim.

People expect a lot more today. For many of the physical and procedural aspects of worklife, conditions have improved dramatically.

People also expect respect. However, the quality of working relationships with coworkers or bosses has not kept pace with improvements in the physical and procedural qualities of worklife. People continue to treat one another badly. Meanwhile, expectations for respect and civility have grown.

The result is a lot of discontent about the quality of working relationships. Complaints of bullying, harassment, and incivility are on the rise. It could be that in many workplaces, people are behaving worse than their predecessors a decade or many decades before. However, that is not the case across the board. Rude, discriminatory, domineering, and hateful relationships existed in the past. On the program Mad Men, cigarette smoke is not the only element contributing to a toxic workplace. The relationships among coworkers and with bosses do not meet a high standard.

What are your standards for respectful working relationships?

What does your employer do to assure that people behave appropriately?

What needs to happen to bring worklife up to reasonable standards of civility and respect?

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