Respect for People: Roommate Edition

As a young lean enthusiast, I have yet to experience a greater example of the need for Respect for People than living with roommates. From a cramped dorm room shared with one other person, to a more “grown up” house shared with five people, one thing remains inevitable: everyone will do something annoying or inconsiderate at some point.

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Obnoxiously loud music, overflowing trash cans, late utility payments…the opportunities for conflict are endless.

The dynamic is different from that of a family home. In most cases, each roommate operates according to their own priorities and schedules, without shared lineage, a common goal, or even similar values to unite them. Confrontation feels even more uncomfortable, and the result is often, for example, a passive aggressive post-it note left by a pile of dirty dishes reading “clean me.”

This is not to say I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed living with (almost) all of my roommates to date. I have. But those small, seemingly insignificant incidences can eventually amount to an overarching feeling of disrespect.

There are many different interpretations of “Respect for People,” but at its core the phrase refers to the literal treatment of human beings. This is the pillar of lean I feel the most passionate about, and the one I am most inspired by.

In a retail setting, “Respect for People” means staying calm and remembering that the employee assisting you most likely did not make the rules. In an office setting, it means treating a custodian the same way you would treat the CEO. In a roommate setting, it means leaving the common spaces cleaner than how you found them and remembering that home is a sanctuary where everyone deserves to feel safe and valued. Treating others with dignity is not rocket science. There is power in patience, in compassion, and in empathy. Even when it’s difficult to embody, “Respect for People” can and will take you far in life.