Have you ever thought about this? Even if you have, how would you know? I once read a quote that said “the difference between the ways a person treats the powerless and the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.” The quote is from Robert I. Sutton, who is a professor at Stanford.
The quote reminds me of my first employer after law school and someone whose lessons still resonate with me today. This individual was nice and respectful to everyone, whether they were powerful (think federal judges) or powerless (think the janitors or security people at the courthouse). Watching these interactions as a young professional had a profound effect on me. Now, in hindsight, I think it helped build my character and in turn, be a better person.
A corollary to the idea of how you treat different people can be seen in business organizations. In some businesses, people are allowed to get away with abusing people, especially if they are “stars,” and may even be rewarded for trampling people on their way up. Other businesses won’t tolerate this type of behavior no matter how successful and profitable the bad actor is.
Think about what is acceptable or not at your place of employment. Is the culture one that is built on people having character and treating people well? Or is the culture one where everyone is out for themselves and character doesn’t matter? We are all different, so you may not be concerned with whether someone like me would think you and those around you have character.
On the other hand, I would like to believe that most of us think having character is important. The positives that comes from having character are endless. The next time you have an opportunity to speak with the janitor at your office, do so. It’s the sort of thing that people of character do, and it will reflect well on you even if you are the only one who knows the conversation happened.