Respect employees to retain them

How to demonstrate and develop a culture of respect in the workplace

When people feel like they are not respected in the workplace, the consequences can be devastating. In a study of more than 14,000 workers in the United States and Canada, Georgetown University’s Professor Christine Porath found that a lack of respect in the workplace leads to reduced effort, lower quality work, and poorer performance.

The Society for Human Resource Management has found that respect in the workplace is the number one contributor to job satisfaction. By implication, employees who feel respected are less likely to jump ship. As such, developing respect in the workplace is among the most important retention strategies in HRM.

The importance of respect in the workplace

When you go to work, you are entitled to feel respected. Yet many workers do not feel they are. Professor Porath’s research found that more than half of employees don’t feel respected at work. Those who don’t feel respected act accordingly:

  • 48% said they intentionally decrease their work effort

  • 47% said they decrease the time they spend at work

  • 38% said they reduce the quality of their work

  • 66% said their performance declines when they suffer a lack of respect

The takeaway is that employees who feel respected at work are more loyal toward their managers and their employer. This is corroborated by SHRM’s finding that respect is the most important factor when measuring job satisfaction, considered as ‘very important’ by a huge 72% of those surveyed. In short, to retain employees, organizations must respect them.

Respect reduces stress, and helps to foster employee engagement. A culture of respect helps to improve productivity and understanding, and helps to rebuild trust and take employees from conflict to collaboration.

What does disrespect look like?

While respect is a cultural issue, it is led by managers and leaders. The example they set will be followed. The most common forms of disrespect shown by managers to their staff include:

  • Interrupting employees when they are speaking

  • Showing little interest in work done or views put forward

  • Failing to provide necessary information for task execution

  • Failing to recognize effort and good performance

  • Acting in a condescending manner

When managers act in this way, employees are likely to follow suit. Supervisors will keep the best tasks for themselves, employees will take credit for work they have not done, and colleagues will play the blame game.

Other indications that an organization’s culture does not promote respect in the workplace include an active rumor mill, colleagues ignoring each other, and, in the worst cases, high levels of conflict, bullying and harassment, which may lead to physical fights.

Demonstrating respect is critical to building a culture of respect

To become a cultural norm, respect must be an ethos that flows through the organization. This, of course, must be demonstrated by leaders and managers. There are many ways this can be achieved. For example:

  • Actively listening to others

  • Encouraging the sharing of ideas, and using the best

  • Never speaking of others behind their backs

  • Improving your emotional intelligence to ensure that you always speak and act appropriately

  • Beware of how body language can convey different meaning to the words you speak

  • Trusting people

  • Learning about your unconscious biases and treating everybody equally

Managers should ensure that they provide equal opportunities for all their employees, whether this is to participate in team meetings, project work, or training and development. It is also important to give feedback effectively and recognize and reward expected behaviors. 

Why it is crucial to demonstrate respect

Developing a culture of respect helps to build trust and collaboration, and engage employees in the organization’s purpose and their work toward achieving it. However, for a culture of respect to exist, it must be shown by all employees. If this is not the case, a manager may need to step in and use their authority to adjust attitudes and behaviors of disrespectful employees. 

To have a genuine conversation about how an employee treats his or her colleagues and the behaviors expected, the manager must be true to them. When poor attitudes and disrespectfulness are evident, the manager should deal with the situation quickly.

Finally, we are all human. We make mistakes, and sometimes act out of character. The respectful manager is never afraid to admit their mistakes and take accountability for their actions. Remember, if an employee acts out of character, there may be a reason for this – good managers understand that the line between personal and working lives can often become blurred, especially if an employee is dealing with stress, sickness or bereavement.

To learn how our coaching can help your organization develop the culture of respect that will help your staff retention rates to rise and your productivity to improve as teamwork increases, contact Forward Focus today.

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