Employees rank respect as the #1 important leadership quality, and yet report that they don’t get it. It’s not difficult to show a little respect, — it’s what everyone wants and what everyone deserves. It can be as simple as saying hello. Making eye contact and saying hello let people know that they are seen and acknowledged – the foundation of respect.
Employees come to work to become someone better, to develop new skills, to make a contribution, and to connect and belong. They are looking for organizations that fulfill these needs and when met, are loyal and productive contributors. Employees will leave a company if they do not feel they can become their best self at work, that they are adding value, or if they do not perceive that they are valued. All they ask for is a little respect. (Do you have the song going through your mind yet?!)
Why is this so difficult?
- First, many managers are promoted for having good technical skills or longevity, often not because they demonstrate great leader qualities.
- Once promoted, managers often learn how to “manage”, but not how to “lead”.
- Perhaps managers aren’t clear that leading is important, what the values are, or how to implement those values in daily work interactions.
- Managers are often distracted, and focused on meeting production numbers, not aware of the need for human interaction and connections with employees.
- Many organizations still use rankings for performance evaluations, rewarding the “top 10%”. Some companies require forced rankings, which increases competition instead of collaboration among employees.
In an HBR interview, Dr. Kristie Rogers, Assistant Professor of Management at Marquette University, summarized what can be done to promote respect for all. Dr. Rogers described 2 types of respect that are of equal importance – owed and earned. Owed respect is the way that all individuals should be treated – with dignity and civility. Earned respect is recognizing achievements, including valued attributes.
Owed respect ensures that all realize a sense of connection and belonging, while earned respect is to reward and recognize. It is necessary to balance both types of respect. For example, too little emphasis on earned respect can result in lack of motivation and drive, but too much emphasis can result in competition.
Our research also indicates that feeling respected, valued, trusted, and listened to enhance well-being, not just collaboration and loyalty. Below are 12 tips for ensuring respect and well-being,
- Cultivate leaders and leadership development – Provide ‘leaderful’ training, emphasizing and providing learning and practice for desired leader qualities or attributes.
- Foster psychological safety, where employees feel safe, secure, that their voice and opinions matter, and that they are heard.
- Encourage personal connections and relationship building.
- Ensure that organization values are communicated and demonstrated.
- Promote civility and owed respect for each members of the organization.
- Never compromise owed respect – It is foundational and once lost is difficult to regain.
- Address and treat everyone as a professional.
- Communicate to each that he/she belongs and that their contributions are valued.
- Let all employees know that they are contributing to something meaningful and important.
- Ensure that all clearly know the goals and expectations.
- Reconsider how performance evaluations are conducted, especially if ranking is used.
- Recognize achievements and desired attributes – certainly performance success, but not just individual success –also collaborative efforts, and demonstrating attributes such as treating all with respect.
Building such a work environment not only results in a more loyal workforce with lower attrition, but also enhanced well-being, and a happier, more satisfied, and more productive workforce. What else would you add to the list? How have you ensured owed and earned respect? We would love to hear from you!
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