Building a culture of respect in the workplace can be a powerful source of benefits for the business, for managers, and for employees. It is a two-way street of ensuring employees respect the business, and allowing employees to feel their work is valued and recognised.
Respect comes in the form of legal requirements, such as preventing racial discrimination, sexism, fair recruitment policies, and working conditions. It also comes in the form of respect for differences of opinion, accepting and giving constructive criticism, and task allocation, among others.
It is not always an easy task and it is critical that building respect comes organically to the workplace over time. This means ensuring rigorous human resources policies are in place, having open lines of communication for all employees, and consistent approaches to issues that may arise.
The benefits of respect in the workplace
Building a respectful workplace can carry benefits for employees and the business.
Job satisfaction: A respectful workplace can significantly increase job satisfaction and improve retention. Where trust is developed between employees and the business, employees feel empowered to make decisions and trust the direction of the business. Research has found this trust is built on reliability, openness, and mutual concern for the needs of workers and the business. It has also been found that 8 in 10 people prefer recognition and respect, over a salary boost.
Knowledge-sharing: Research found knowledge-sharing and trust is closely correlated. Where employees feel respected and trusted, knowledge is shared throughout the business, vertically and horizontally. This gives staff a better understanding of their responsibilities and business expectations. Open communication also fosters a better workplace culture where issues are addressed quickly.
Increases productivity: Businesses with well-established policies for treating employees equally have better morale and more productive workers. The Harvard Business Review found $500 billion is lost by US businesses because of workplace stress, and workers are almost 20 percent less productive. Further, workplaces with positive cultures receive more applicants for advertised positions. This gives human resources and recruitment staff a larger pool of potential talent to pick from.
A mentally healthy and happy workforce: Ensuring a respectful workplace culture promotes happiness among employees, reducing the risks of grievances, turnover, and absenteeism. Truly dynamic businesses remain open to cultural change, regularly engaging employees for feedback. Employees feel valued and valuable, and are more likely to embrace new procedures or rules.
How to encourage respect in the workplace
It is important for businesses and managers to work collaboratively with employees to create a positive workplace. This means developing positive relationships with employees and two-way feedback loops to address any problems as they arise. This allows the business to understand patterns of behaviour among workers, and build procedures that reflect these workflows.
Managers should actively mentor employees for career advancement. Not only does this promote knowledge-sharing, but also benefits employees both in the present and the future. Mentoring gives staff immediate feedback on their current performance while setting them up for promotions heading forward. It sets achievable and aspirational goals for individual and team performance. A view to the future also sets a good example of the values of the business.
The best way to build a positive workplace culture is to break the mould. Don’t rely on a top-down approach to policy and procedural change. Every employee has the potential to give positive suggestions for change in the business. Being receptive to feedback gives the business flexibility needed to enact changes without resistance. This stimulates creativity and innovation throughout the business, brings out the best in your employees, and ultimately, boosts the bottom line.