Respect, one of the core XP values, from a practical point of view




Everybody has an intuitive understanding of what Respect is.
And Respect is also one of the core values of eXtreme Programming.
I want to look deeper at what Respect means, be able to spot a disrespectful behavior and avoid it.

There are many writings about Respect from many different fields (i.e. philosophy and psychology) and Respect itself has many dimensions, i.e.
  • cognitive dimensions (beliefs, acknowledgments, judgments, deliberations, commitments)
  • affective dimensions (emotions, feelings, ways of experiencing things)
  • conative dimensions (motivations, dispositions to act and forbear from acting)



After reading some papers and articles, here follows a summary of key practical examples followed by my thoughts on real work situations.





Note that when someone has some form of power (i.e. positional, reward, expert or referent) over someone else and even more when at the same time also disagrees, competes or is having a conflict, the negative effects of a disrespectful behavior get amplified and can turn into harassment or even abuse.

The negative effects of a disrespectful behavior get amplified also when that behaviour is repeated more times.

Disrespectful behavior can be done on purpose, or without realizing it.


Here the summary of practical example of what Respect is.

  • be courteous
  • treat someone with dignity, consideration and esteem 
  • consider someone to be of equal worth to yourself
  • extend to yourself the same respect you would extend to another


  • listen to what others have to say when they speak 
  • try to understand them
  • value other people's opinions
  • try to learn something from the other person
  • show interest and appreciation for other people's backgrounds and cultures
  • extend heartfelt attentiveness to others
  • foster meaningful conversations that lead to mutual satisfaction


  • separate the people from the problem


  • be considerate of people's personal space, time and privacy
  • don't pressure someone to do something he or she doesn't want to do 
  • be considerate of people's likes and dislikes
  • be sensitive and have a regard for other people's feelings, desires and interests
  • recognize other peoples' needs
    • emotional
    • physiological and safety
    • belonging and identity
    • purpose and meaning to lives
    • recognition and love
  • avoid unwelcome approaches or continued requests for social contacts after the recipient has made it clear that it's unwelcome

  • don't deliberately exclude an individual
  • don't substitute responsible job's tasks with menial or trivial ones
  • don't overbear job's supervision or other misuse of power or position
  • don't go along with prejudices (i.e. based on someone rank, age, role, beliefs, preferences,  affiliation, etc)
  • don't  treat someone less favourably because of gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, and the like

  • don't stereotype people
  • don't talk about people behind their backs
  • don't mock or tease people
  • don't make comparisons between people
  • don't ignore someone
  • don't raise your voice to someone 
  • don't blame others
  • don't induce fear, guilt or shame
  • don't shout at someone in anger
  • don't punish others
  • don't belittle, intimidate or threaten someone
  • don't insult people or make fun of them


  • practice the golden rule





Sanity test:: as sanity test for my understanding of the above list I've read also the Golder Rule and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The test was green! Chances are that I understood both equally well ... or equally bad :D.

Litmus test: as reality check for my practice of Respect I asked myself if I respect people at work in the same way I respect them in my private life, with family members and in my social life; or instead if at work my priorities changes.





Here examples of real situations, and my thoughts about why they could be disrespectful:


  • Someone "ask" and expect team members to work harder to meet a deadline;
    this can be disrespectful in 2 ways:
    • impose the solution  "working harder" to the team without asking, listening and considering their professional opinion about how the issue could be solved
    • pressuring team members to work harder, late and overtime and so affecting their personal life and their families life with disregard of their needs, desires, feelings and interests


  • Imposing a solution to a problem without asking how to proceed to all the people involved in the problem and affected by the decision;
    or similarly assign a task to someone and require his/her commitment instead of asking people to volunteer for the tasks that needs to be done;
    this can be disrespectful in 2 ways:
    • ignore the professional opinions of the people involved that have the competence and the capability to contribute in finding and evaluating possible solutions
    • impose a solution that affect other people with disregard of their needs, desires, feelings and interests


  • Adopt a style of management like the McGregor’s Theory-X ones (check here);
    this can be disrespectful in 2 ways: 
    • it stereotype workers based on the prejudice that they will dislike work and will avoid it when possible, that they prefer to avoid responsibilities and are relatively unambitious
    • it push workers based on the assumption that they eventually need to be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards organisational objectives


Want to add more examples ? Post a comment.





Some links

[0] Universal Declaration of Human Rights
[1] Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, Respect; http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/respect/
[2] Teaching Guide: Respecting Others; http://www.goodcharacter.com/BCBC/RespectingOthers.html
[3] Sana Farid, University of Notre Dame, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Respect; http://www.beyondintractability.org/bi-essay/respect
[4] Wikipedia: Consensus blocking and other forms of dissent
[5] Wikipedia: Maslow's hierarchy of needs
[6] Wikipedia: Manfred Max-Neef's fundamental human needs
[7] When diversity, dissent and responsibility lack
[8] Assertiveness and self-confidence
[9] Ease at Work - Kent Beck
[10] The fundamental attribution error (2°)



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