In today’s business landscape, office dynamics are more diverse than ever. Walk into any workplace and you’re likely to be met with a host of people from different generations and cultural backgrounds. Right now, as an increasing number of businesses embrace the benefits of greater workplace diversity, one of the most pressing challenges is developing a shared understanding of what it means to be respectful.
1. Respect can be seen through two definitions: Hierarchy focused and connection-focused. Whilst all employees want to be respected, it can be viewed and understood differently
2. Managers should avoid directing employees to simply be respectful, as what’s respectful for one person may be rude for another.
3. To create a culture of respect, we should be focused on treating people as they would like to be treated.
4. Respect in the workplace lets employees know that their efforts are appreciated and encourage them to work to their full potential.
As our perspectives stem from our varied life experiences, the notion of ‘respect’ differs from one person to another. And this is why it can be problematic for managers and team leaders to direct their employees to be respectful. After all, one person’s idea of respect may be deemed as rude or inappropriate to another person.
With social norms everchanging, most, if not all of us, have differing views on specific actions. The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation reports that for many people born in the boomer generation, respect is automatically given to anyone defined as an ‘elder’. However, for millennials, they are much more likely to characterize respect as a two-way action that is earned through behaviors.
In an article for Forbes, Jessica Hagy states that ‘respect’ can be seen through two definitions: Hierarchy focused and Connection focused. For hierarchy focused respect, Hagy states that “if someone needs to feel superior, [managers should] keep all communication exceedingly professional. Address them by their title, if that’s a source of their personal authority. Keep them informed, and appeal to their ego periodically to prevent them from feeling slighted.”
In relation to connection focused respect, Hagy states that “if someone needs to be included, make sure they’re a part of the social ecosystem of the team. Keep communication casual, and bring up topics beyond the scope of the job. Give them honest appraisals, and make sure they feel involved.”
Respect in the modern workplace
In the context of the modern workplace, strong people skills are now, more than ever, needed to navigate co-worker interactions. In an article for Forbes, Natalia Peart states that “in our increasingly hyper-connected world, we’re no longer expected to work just as individuals or only in silos. Our projects have become more complex, so the ability to work effectively as part of a team has also grown in importance.”
Peart goes on to say that “Given the increasingly global nature of work, your ability to collaborate, share knowledge and contribute to teams that can capitalize on a diversity of thinking and perspective in ways that everyone can benefit and drive to the shared outcomes is critical.”
To create a culture of respect, all of us need to be mindful in regard to our work actions. It’s no longer enough to merely treat people as you would like to be treated. Instead, we should be focused on treating people as they would like to be treated. And to do this, we need to take the time to listen to each other’s perspectives.
To unlock a deeper understanding of respect in your workplace, start by asking your team, ‘what makes you feel respected’? If your team’s profile is diverse – with variances in age, gender, and culture – this makes for an interesting, multi-layered conversation. Consequently, you may find that it’s easier to encourage this conversation by having each person in your team complete the sentence, ‘I feel respected when…’
Why is respect in the workplace important?
Respect in the workplace lets employees know that their efforts are appreciated and thus, encourages them to work to their full potential. With a greater understanding of respect, employers can understand why their employees respond to certain situations in the manner they do. As a result, they can take the necessary steps to create a positive work environment for everyone in their team.
The benefits of respect in the workplace are outlined below:
Respect reduces stress
When it comes to the health of your employees in the workplace, reducing stress is especially important. This is because stress-free employees feel more at ease sharing ideas and working with their colleagues to achieve a common goal. Increased respect and reduced stress have also been shown to produce positive mental and physical effects on workers’ health.
Related article: How to Prevent Employee Burnout
1. Respect maximizes productivity and collaboration
Respect enables employees to develop innovative ideas and work with more purpose, as they know that their contributions are appreciated: It ensures that employees are engaged in their work. Workplaces that foster respect allow employees and managers to learn from each other, whilst continually developing their skills. And once your employees start collaborating more effectively, cross-training and informal learning can be achieved across all areas of your business.
2. Employee satisfaction
When respect exists within a workplace, employees can be happy with their work and leave at the end of each day feeling proud of their accomplishments. Furthermore, this sense of satisfaction from employees has long-term benefits for employers. Satisfied employees typically want to stay with companies that value their work and offer ways to advance or develop their careers. For some companies, respect for their workers is their ‘Employee Value Proposition‘ or ‘EVP’ – the very thing that attracts workers to that company in the first place.
In addition, satisfied employees are more inclined to apply for internal promotions and lead their teams with the same diligence and respect they have been shown. Lower rates of employee turnover results in reduced time and costs spent on training and onboarding.
3. Respect creates a fair environment
Offering employees the opportunity to showcase their skills and knowledge – regardless of their background – is of paramount importance for employers.
Part of treating employees fairly is prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and creating ‘Equal Employment Opportunity‘ or ‘EEO’. But respect and fairness in the workplace is more than simply following the law.
Workplace respect gives everyone a chance to be heard and discourages people from playing favorites. All employees should have the same voice as their colleagues, and all ideas should be welcomed with an equal amount of respect. A respectful environment allows employees to thrive, is a crucial part of the employee experience whilst contributing more value to their employer.
As an increasing number of businesses embrace the benefits of workplace diversity, it is important that we seek to develop a shared understanding of what it means to be respectful. Whilst many of us view respect differently, we should nevertheless strive to treat people as they would like to be treated. By taking the time to listen to one another’s perspectives, we can foster a more collaborative and cohesive work environment.
Respect in the workplace is a concept that all employers need to prioritize. It doesn’t matter whether you are hiring for an NGO, a startup, a small business, or a large enterprise, respect is essential. Respect reduces stress, maximizes productivity and collaboration, increases employee satisfaction, and creates a fair work environment. These factors lead to less employee turnover, improved staff performance, and reduced time and costs spent on training and onboarding.
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