Respect is one of the core values in “The Iowa Promise,” the strategic plan for The University of Iowa.  In addition, the Board of Regents Code of Business and Fiduciary Conduct states that “all faculty, staff, students, and administrators are expected to act at all times with fairness, integrity, and respect for others.”  In particular, respectful behavior reflects the University’s commitment to appreciation of diverse points of view.  Disrespectful behavior in the workplace, classroom or living environment can raise concerns about whether The University of Iowa is a welcoming and supportive environment.  Further, although it is critically important to protect academic freedom and free expression, this obligation does not justify disrespectful behavior.     

The Office of the Ombudsperson has been tracking incidents of disrespectful behavior on campus since 1997.  The percentage of office visitors who described situations involving disrespectful behavior increased from 8% in 2006-07 to an all-time high of 31% in 2017-18; there was a slight dip to 30% in 2018-19.  In the 2018 Working at Iowa survey of faculty and staff, 13% disagreed with the statement that The University of Iowa treats faculty and staff with respect, and 6% disagreed that individuals in his/her unit are civil and respectful to one another.  Events over the past few years have made this a particularly stressful time in our community, and stress may cause people to behave differently than they ordinarily would.  It also may cause people to be more sensitive than usual to the behavior of those with whom they work or go to school.  As a result, disrespectful behavior may become a more frequent concern than in the past.

Relevant Policies

A number of policies state the expectation of respectful behavior on campus and can be used to communicate performance expectations to staff, faculty and students.

1.       Faculty Ethics and Responsibilities

2.       Staff Ethics and Responsibilities

3.       Universal Competencies for Staff

4.       Work Rules

Behavior may be perceived differently by different observers, or by the person engaging in the behavior as opposed to the person to whom the behavior is directed.   Cultural background may influence how people behave and how behavior is perceived.  We encourage discussion between the people involved, to explain different perspectives, rectify any incorrect assumptions, and resolve the dispute.  In addition, patterns of behavior are very important to consider, since the impact of repeated behaviors is very different than that of isolated incidents.

Although it can be difficult in the absence of contextual information to characterize behavior, disrespectful behavior may include the following examples, which also are located on a Respect Continuum:

  • Rude, impolite, discourteous behavior
  • Refusal to speak or interact, obvious avoidance, shunning
  • Insensitive comments or behaviors
  • Dismissive, belittling, or disparaging comments or behaviors
  • Offensive jokes, hurtful humor, or hurtful sarcasm
  • Harsh and/or public criticism
  • Raised voice, yelling, screaming
  • Swearing
  • Rude gestures
  • Bullying behavior
  • Throwing objects, slamming doors, etc.,  out of anger or for the purpose of intimidation
  • Abusive language or behavior
  • Verbal or physical intimidation; verbal or physical threats; using one’s physical presence to violate personal space
  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Violent behavior.

Expectations for All Members of the UI Community

  • Members of the UI community are expected to treat one another with respect at all times.
  • Members of the UI community have the right to protest disrespectful behavior by others.  Direct communication is encouraged where possible.  If necessary, help should be sought from supervisors, administrators, Human Resource Representatives, and/or any of the resources listed below.

How Supervisors Can Support Respectful Behavior

  • All supervisors have the responsibility to address disrespectful behavior at the time it occurs.  Actions to address it may include:
  • Educating the offender about the effect of his/her behavior on others and reaffirming expectations.
  • If needed, facilitating discussion among the parties to clarify misunderstandings and set team communication expectations (Organization Effectiveness may be a resource to assist with this).
  • Suggesting the use of Faculty and Staff Services/EAP to address stress that may be influencing behavior.
  • Using a performance improvement plan to correct and sustain appropriate behavior.
  • Contacting the Supervisory Help-line, 335-2085.
  • Consulting with managers, local Human Resources, and the resources listed below.
  • Disciplinary action may be warranted for repeated violations of policies that state an expectation of respectful behavior on campus.

If You Need Assistance

Offices that may be consulted by individuals or supervisors to address instances of disrespectful behavior include:

Training resources also are available to develop awareness and skills; see Respect at UI:  Training Opportunities on the Conflict Management website.