EmpACT: Employment as a Practice
“Human dignity, the ability to establish a sense of self-worth and self-respect and to enjoy the respect of others, is necessary for a fully realized life. Working with dignity is a fundamental part of achieving a life well-lived, yet the workplace often poses challenging obstacles because of mismanagement or managerial abuse.” (Dignity at Work. Randy Hodson. 2001)
At TPA, we believe the measurement of economic insecurity must go beyond simply looking at unemployment rates or wage levels. Yes, we care deeply about everyone earning a fair wage and having necessary benefits like health care and retirement. But more needs to be understood about how economic well-being is impacted by “dignity and respect” in the workplace. The quality of a job should matter just as much as what one gets paid.
We learned this first-hand when we tested a workplace professional development program with Downtown Seattle Association’s Clean and Safety Teams. In the project, called EmpACT, we heard directly from the workers who engaged in the program that they were not always able to bring their full selves to work, and that trust and relationship building with their colleagues translated into a higher quality work experience. These workers experienced higher job satisfaction, engagement and reported greater meaning in the work they were doing (which was cleaning the streets of downtown Seattle). At the end of the day, it was the DSA workers that taught us about the power of dignity and respect in the workplace. Now we are working to spread this learning so that respect and dignity in the workplace is available to all, not just a special few.