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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Equality and Respect – part 2

After I showed my draft blog on Equality to several friends for comments, I got this response: “Because of equality there is less respect especially among partners”. I had to consider this reply for a moment as it came unexpected. The link between these two concepts – equality and respect – had somehow escaped me. After some consideration I acknowledged this observation.

Frankly, I had a different situation in mind – the work floor – but the outcome would still be the same: the drive for equality implies a loss of mutual respect. A hierarchy based upon merits usually creates respect towards leaders. Such leaders are likely to appreciate, respect and promote their subordinates based upon similar merits. The drive for equality gives the false sense of a lacking hierarchy. There is aways a hierarchy – whether formal or informal. Informal hierarchies are even far more dangerous as it takes time to notice them. By then it may already be too late to show respect.

In several of my blogs I have mentioned that Respect is one of the 4 cornerstones of relationships. The other 3 are Communication, Intimacy, and Trust. In work environments the Intimacy factor is usually absent. The other 3 are still relevant in an effective – and even efficient – manager/employee relationship: communication, respect and trust. A drive for equality is not.

For me respect is one of the most crucial elements in the working environment. It is genuinely hard for me to work for anyone who doesn’t deserve my respect. For me it’s even a deal breaker – whether in job applications or ongoing jobs. As a bare bone minimum, I need to respect his/her business accumen. His/her personality is a bonus but not a deal breaker. I have had my share of bullies but they were smart and/or shrewd and they taught me a lot. Even their negative personal behaviour taught me how to be different myself. As Confucius once stated: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.”

I don’t think that partners in a relationship are equal. Partners are – or should be – complementary but never equal. Equality in a relationship implies that each partner can do everything with the same skills and speed. That is a ridiculous assumption. It not only defies unique talents but even the reason behind the original choice for that partner. Having a clone as a partner must be the worst idea ever.

Even in so called “partnerships” (eg, LLP) there isn’t much equality. Nowadays, you have salary partners, local partners, and profit sharing international partners. There is also a further distinction between junior and senior partners, depending on tenure. As far as I know, senior profit sharing international partners partners are at the top of the hierarchy. Usually, the staff has no idea about such hierarchy. Probably out of respect. Amongst the partners this distinction is however very relevant.

The famous song Respect is basically about inequality between partners. Wikipedia: Otis Redding’s version is a plea from a desperate man, who will give his woman anything she wants. He won’t care if she does him wrong, as long as he gets his due respect, when he comes home (“respect” being a euphemism). However, Aretha Franklin’s version is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong, and demands his “respect”. Obviously, latter “respect” is another sexual euphemism.

Hey little girl, you’re so sweeter than honey. And I’m about to give you all my money. But all I’m askin’, hey, Is a little respect when I get home. Otis Redding

Otis Redding – Respect (1965) – artistlyricsWiki-1Wiki-2

Aretha Franklin – Respect (1967) – artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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