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Thomas Jefferson arrived alone on horseback at a hotel in Baltimore and asked for a room. The landlord of the hotel, named Boyden, looked Jefferson up and down and surmised that he was a lowly farmer, and in a curt voice said, "We have no room for you, sir."

Just after Jefferson had left, a very wealthy man came to the hotel and informed Boyden that the man was Thomas Jefferson, vice president of the United States at the time. Boyden was amazed and appalled that he had turned away the vice president.

"He is the greatest man alive," declared the wealthy gentleman.

"What have I done?" lamented Boyden. He called for his helpers and he said, "Run and tell that gentleman that he may have 40 rooms if he wishes. Tell him to come back. He can have my wife's bedroom or my own."

Jefferson by that time had already reached another hotel when Boyden's servants caught up with him and delivered their master's message.

Jefferson replied: "Tell him I have engaged a room. Tell Boyden that I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no room for a dirty farmer, he shall have none for the vice president."

As baseball great Jackie Robinson said, "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being."

There are four very important words in life: love, honesty, truth and respect. Without these in your life, you have nothing.

If there were ever a time in our history when respect was less evident, I would suggest that time is now.

But all is not lost. I think most of us would prefer to return to kinder times when differing opinions were met with open minds. It's important to listen to other points of view. You may learn something that you hadn't considered before. And it could help you understand why others behave as they do.

You probably spend most of your waking hours at work, where respectful behavior is essential to building trust among co-workers. Working together can easily turn co-workers into best friends, making jobs more enjoyable and the workplace a productive environment.

But friendships need to be managed appropriately, just like every other workplace relationship. Respect in the workplace means that you follow some basic rules. Here are a few important ones.

• Limit social chatter. Everyone chats a little at work, but don't let your friendly conversations overshadow your responsibilities. Stay focused on your job most of the time.

• Keep private issues private. When you have problems to discuss, do it over lunch or after work. You don't want to make your co-workers privy to your personal dramas, and they probably don't want to listen to them either.

• Avoid gossip. Most of us love to talk about other people, but you should keep your natural inclination to share rumors about co-workers or managers in check. If colleagues realize you are gossiping about them, the backlash could be unpleasant.

• Don't do each others' jobs. Pitching in to help a friend in a crunch is admirable, but keep it to a reasonable limit. Your manager is in charge of assignments and responsibilities, not you. You don't want to give the impression that you don't trust your manager to do his or her job.

• Include, don't exclude. You may prefer the company of your friend, but don't ignore the rest of your office. Invite other co-workers to lunch and include them in your conversations. You may even make new friends by expanding your circle at work.

Of course, I usually rely on the "act like your mother is watching" rule. If you would be ashamed to behave in a certain way around your mother, stop and think before your actions would earn her disapproval. I'd like to believe that the lessons we learned in childhood carry through to our adult lives.

I'd hate to think we all have to learn the hard way, like Mr. Boyden.

Mackay's Moral: Showing respect is not a sign of weakness — it's a show of strength.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail