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The importance of respect in the workplace is something that must be understood by employees at every level of seniority. Respect at work is a vital part of establishing a healthy working environment. Mutual respect in the workplace lets all employees know that they are valued for their achievements, abilities and qualities.
Being valued and treated respectfully helps to promote a positive work culture in which employees are fulfilled, loyal, engaged and motivated to perform at their very best. Employees who do not offer respect to others are unprofessional and pose a threat to the health and success of their company.
Employee engagement levels in the UK are one of the worst in Europe with fewer than one in 10 UK employees feeling enthusiastic about their job. Just 9% of UK workers surveyed for Gallup’s ‘State of the global workforce’ report felt enthused by their work and workplace in 2022, well below the European average of 14%.
A survey by Harvard Business Review found that out of 20,000 employees, respect was the leading behaviour that encourages greater commitment and engagement.
Almost every workplace will experience conflicts from time to time. Such disagreements can lead to decreased productivity, demotivation and misunderstanding. Employees won’t always see eye-to-eye, and the workplace can harbour many obstacles for colleagues to disagree over. After all, we all have different perspectives, outlooks and ways of working.
That said, all employees must understand that a professional attitude and a respectful demeanour come first when conducting themselves in the workplace.
In this five-minute guide, we’ll discuss why respect is essential in the workplace, the importance of mutual respect in the workplace, and how respect can be demonstrated.
Why is respect important in the workplace?
Respect is the act of showing appreciation for someone’s traits or qualities or treating people with dignity and gratitude. An attitude of respect should come as standard in the workplace regardless of any personal feelings.
Once the importance of respect at work is understood, the concept takes on a greater meaning. You may begin to appreciate why your colleagues react to certain situations and take measures to create a more positive working environment for all staff. When employees feel respected, they respect others.
Some key benefits of respect in the workplace include:
A respectful environment reduces stress
Stress reduction is crucial for the health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace. Employees that feel unstressed and respected are more confident about sharing ideas and working with their colleagues to achieve their goals. Reduced stress and increased respect can have both a mental and physical impact on the health of your employees.
Respect increases collaboration and productivity
A respectful working environment can offer more opportunities for your employees. When you show respect to your colleagues, you value their opinions and ask for their ideas on various issues and problems. This can lead to increased collaboration and more creative solutions, benefiting the business as a whole.
Additionally, projects can get completed faster and with increased efficiency. Each new project can be an opportunity for staff to learn from one another and where all individuals get a chance to improve their skills. This could lead to cross-training throughout different departments within your company, all built upon a culture of mutual respect in the workplace.
Respect improves employee satisfaction
A combination of productivity and collaboration work in synergy to create a positive workplace with employees who feel satisfied. Your employees can leave work at the end of the day with a sense of achievement and pride over what they have accomplished.
This sense of satisfaction is beneficial to both employers and employees. Staff who feel satisfied are more likely to stay with a company that values them and helps them develop both personally and professionally. Additionally, happy employees are more likely to lead their teams with the care and respect that they have come to value. When turnover rates are low, less time and money have to be spent on onboarding and training.
Respect helps to create a fair working environment
One of the most valued things that you can offer as an employer is an opportunity for staff to show their knowledge and skills regardless of their background. A respectful atmosphere prevents favouritism, giving everyone equal opportunity to voice their ideas.
This is powerful as it gives different types of employees the chance to participate regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability. By practising respect, every employee feels equal, and all ideas are valued no matter who they come from. In respectful settings, employees can flourish when they have the opportunity to contribute equitably.
Why mutual respect is important
Whether you’re cleaning up the office kitchen or helping a colleague to brainstorm, showing respect in the workplace provides a range of transformative benefits, including:
Mutual respect increases employee engagement
Total employee engagement is a target that many businesses strive to reach. Although there are many strategies for keeping motivation levels up in the workplace, one of the most straightforward strategies is to show respect for all members of your team.
As mentioned earlier, Harvard Business Review found that when 20,000 employees were questioned, respect was the number one behaviour that encouraged greater commitment and employee engagement.
Employees reported that respect from their managers had a more positive impact than recognition, constructive feedback, sharing the company vision, or opportunities for career or personal development.
When employees feel respected by other team members, they are less likely to be stressed and more likely to apply themselves to their work. This is also true when your employees know that their managers and team leaders respect them and the work they are doing.
Whether it’s respecting lieu time for staff that work overtime, employing a remote worker to reduce pressure, or relaxing rules around your company’s travel policy, anything that shows a sense of trust can make an employee feel more respected and increase their engagement.
Respect helps to eliminate harassment, bullying and disagreements
When colleagues show respect to each other in the workplace, a sense of community is established, and incidences of bullying, harassment, or arguing can be diminished. When management shows respect for all employees, there are no opportunities for favouritism, bullying, or harassment.
In an environment built on respect, strengthening and building relationships can be better understood as the crucial foundation of quality work.
Respect can improve the bottom line
As respect creates a fair environment, increases employee engagement, improves knowledge sharing and reduces stress, it must help to improve the company’s bottom line.
When there is respect in the workplace, the work environment becomes an enjoyable place to be rather than a burden. Respect can replace jealousy with compliments, gossiping with congratulating, and harassment with appreciation.
How respect is demonstrated
It goes without saying that all managers and employees should:
- Control anger.
- Be polite.
- Be helpful.
- Respect privacy.
- Be non-judgemental.
- Never use foul language.
- Avoid gossiping.
- Show good manners.
However, there are three key steps to building respect and trust in the workplace:
Engage employees on their terms
Whereas trust can be considered a belief in your staff, respect involves putting that trust into action. For a relationship to be based around trust and respect, each and every team member must be prepared to take responsibility for their actions. This includes even the most senior-level management. Company directors and high-tier managers must lead by example, instilling trust in their teams by displaying respectful attitudes and listening to their employees.
Business leaders have a responsibility to mobilise their employees and set a positive course. To openly model respectful values and encourage a positive work environment, managers have to care for and value the opinions of their staff.
Each employee provides unique strengths, communication methods and values. Therefore, managers should take time to get to know their staff on an individual basis, actively encouraging them to get to know each other. This way, when problems arise, managers are better equipped to help resolve conflicts between individuals.
For example, when working with employees who are extroverted and thrive off human interaction, it’s worth stopping by their desk to discuss a problem in person rather than sending an email.
On the other hand, when working with introverts who prefer communicating digitally, it’s best to send an email instead of approaching them in person.
By adapting to individuals, staff can help demonstrate awareness of their personality and unique character. This can help to make them feel respected while earning mutual respect at the same time. When employees feel respected, they’re more likely to pay it forward and respect others.
Communicate expectations, directions and goals
Just as listening is important, so is communication. Sometimes it’s time to stop and take an honest look at your actions as an employer. Do you prioritise communications with leaders at the very top of your company? Or do you dedicate time to the individual contributors at the lower end of the managerial hierarchy?
Employees want to hear from their managers. They need to understand why individual decisions are being made, along with having enough information to make the most of their role. These are essential factors in demonstrating respect in the workplace.
Suppose key goals and messages are only communicated at the top end of an organisation. In that case, there’s a chance that employees will become uninterested, lose their enthusiasm, and feel disengaged from their work. These are all behaviours that impact the levels of trust and respect in the workplace.
If you’ve noticed that these types of attitudes are common in your business, start to make positive changes. When you’re honest with your staff, people notice, and sincerity goes a long way.
As a manager, you should be approachable, open and committed to giving positive feedback on each team member’s unique contributions. When an employee understands how their work contributes to the overall success of the company, they feel valued and respected.
By setting clear goals that ensure employees’ duties align with the goals of the business, staff are supported in being a valued part of the business’s success. Treat staff as though they can make a positive difference to your business, and they will.
Create a safe working environment
Do your staff feel like they can share their opinions openly about your business strategies? Or, are they expected to remain silent without questioning your approach?
When a foundation of respect and trust is created, employees should feel confident and safe to challenge the status quo.
Although this can cause discomfort initially, industry disruption and innovation are created by giving employees the confidence to share their opinions without any fear.
An unfortunate knock-on effect of this is that occasional disagreements are inevitable. Try not to see these situations in a negative light. Conflict can be healthy, especially if employees are voicing their opinions for the greater good of the business.
When disagreements occur, employees should be encouraged to attempt to resolve matters between themselves. However, managers should emphasise that conflicts should be resolved by offering each party time to explain their perspectives without room for interruption.
If matters reach a stalemate, you may need to get involved. In which case, talk to each employee who is involved in the disagreement. Once all the information has been disclosed, work to embrace honesty, even discomfort, and help your staff to reach a respectful resolution.
A great example is to ask all staff involved to find and explain a positive aspect of the opposing viewpoint. This can help to shift the mood and move disagreements in a positive direction.
If you can create a safe space where employees have the trust to voice their opinions, you can help them work through conflict, ultimately setting up your business for success.
Move forward with a fresh focus on mutual respect and trust
As you work to improve your listening and communication, you can create a safe environment for employees to thrive and innovate. You’ll also help to create a space where all employees feel respected and trusted. This approach creates a company in which employees – and your business – thrive.
Ultimately, this respectful atmosphere should make your company a more attractive place to work. This could reduce the need to recruit new staff as employee retention increases.
The bottom line should also improve as everyone starts to work together in harmony. You may find it’s easier to hit annual targets and keep the business growing year-on-year.