Maintaining dignity and self-esteem in the workplace is hugely important for employees. However, sometimes progressing smoothly and with self-respect in your chosen career is not always as easy as you might think. There can be many pitfalls and obstacles along the way; and this is why both retaining and improving your self-esteem and dignity is so high on the agenda for many employees.

Unfortunately, there has been an erosion in human connectivity in recent years, especially following the rapid advances of technology and the Internet. For example, compared to say 50 years ago, how often do we speak to our neighbours or those across the street? It can the same in the workplace too.

People seem to be keeping to themselves more and more, despite the fact that we as humans still have a deep hunger for human connection. Socially, there has been a decline in community interaction, values and ‘the neighbourhood’; as well as reduced church attendance, and less reliance on extended families.

Of course, one of the big bonuses of being employed is it offers workers the opportunity to interact and form strong relationships with their colleagues. This is illustrated in a recent article by the Australian Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), in which the authors contend that the ability to work well with others is what most clearly separates successful workers from unsuccessful ones.

CCL research over the past 30 years has found that those employees who fail to establish strong interpersonal relationships are usually the same ones most likely to ‘derail’ at some point in their careers. Some of the traits of these staff include (amongst other things): insensitivity; over-competitiveness; self-isolation and dictatorial behaviour. Other traits include being overly critical (or demanding), arrogance, and being angered easily.

The main problem for many of these staff is they are initially hired both for their contributions as individuals; and for what they can contribute to the bottom line. Later on however, they find themselves judged not only on results, but also on how well they manage their relationships with people; both within and without the organisation. This ability to relate to people is, of course, crucial to any employee’s self-esteem, self-respect and dignity. In the article, CCL explains how easy it is to have bad interpersonal skills and low self-respect and dignity in your relationships; thus limiting your career prospects. A good example of this could be when an employee asks a colleague about their family; even though he or she may not even know the family members’ names or interests.

In this case, it is quite understandable that the employee being questioned may not want to chat about his or her personal life; and so this enquiry this may look false or insincere. CCL also recommends that in order to retain trust and respect at work, it is important when you do ask a question, to always be sure you are prepared to really listen to the answer.

Interrupting or talking over others in mid sentence is another good way to lose dignity or self-respect with your colleagues. Confusing hearing with listening is another no-no, according to CCL. They say the best way to build rapport with your colleagues is by deliberate and active listening, and absorbing what is said with empathy. It is also important not to use humour inappropriately. Your sarcasm or witty observations may work with your closest friends, but not with your workmates.

Another good way to lose trust and dignity is by discussing private information in public. If something is said to you in confidence, keep it private; as this also plays a big part in retaining your dignity and self-esteem.

Lastly, remember to collaborate on everything; and always keep in mind that moving forward and taking action is an important part of being effective at work. And for those of us who have experienced any of the above missteps in their careers, now is the time to take action and make any necessary adjustments. If you do, you will avoid failure; while also retaining your dignity and self-respect.