Ask anyone in your workplace what treatment they want from their bosses and co-workers and they will likely top their list with the desire for their employer and coworkers to treat them with dignity and respect. It seems that everybody needs to feel respected in their workplace.

So how is a respectful workplace created?

It is important first to understand what respect is. Firstly, it is having an admiration and positive regard for an individual. You believe that the person is worthy of your regard and admiration because of the good qualities and capabilities that they bring to your workplace and because of the good that they generate in what they do.

Secondly, you recognise that people at core are good and decent persons with rights, opinions, wishes, perceptions and unique experience. They have the right for you to regard them through this referential lens.

And thirdly, acting from this platform of respect and regard for others, you behave in commensurate and matching ways that demonstrate your awareness of your colleagues as people who deserve respect.

How is respect recognised?

You know when you have respect for others and you know when you don’t. You can feel it emanating from your coworkers and bosses when respect they respect you, and you can feel it when they do not. Respect can be heard in a person’s tone of voice, in their nonverbal communication, and in the words they use to address you. Respect is recognised in how a co-worker or boss sincerely listens to a person and asks questions to make sure that they understand their point of view.

Employees assess whether they are respected by the way their organisation, their managers and leaders treat them. They see it in how their organization establishes new rules and policies, how they introduce new procedures to employees, and in how they compensate and reward them. They can see the degree of respect in which they are held by how often they are asked for their opinion, run work changes that affect their job by them before implementing them, and delegate meaningful assignments.

Ensuring Respect is practiced

You can ensure that respect is created and nurtured in your workplace with some of these simple, yet powerful actions, treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself.

  • Treat people with courtesy, politeness, and kindness.
  • Ask questions and encourage co-workers to express opinions and ideas.
  • Listen attentively and genuinely to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint. Never speak over another or butt-in, or cut-off another person.
  • Try using other people’s ideas to change or improve work. Let them know you used their idea, or, better yet, encourage the person with the idea to implement the idea.
  • Never insult people, use name calling, disparage or put down people or their ideas.
  • Do not nit-pick, constantly criticize over little things, belittle, judge, demean or patronize. A series of seemingly trivial actions added up over time, can undermine confidence and generate stress.
  • Be aware of your body language, the tone of voice, and your demeanor and expression in all of your interactions at work. People, who are radar machines, are hearing what you’re really saying in addition to listening to your words.
  • Improve your own ability to interact with coworkers and bosses in a way that emphasizes the knowledge you have gained from your awareness of people and your emotional intelligence. It will make you more able to offer sympathy, relate with empathy, and step into the shoes of those with whom you work.
  • Treat people the same no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin. Implement policies and procedures consistently, so people feel that they are treated fairly and equally. Treating people differently can constitute harassment or a hostile work environment.
  • Include all coworkers in meetings, discussions, training, and events. While not every person can participate in every activity, keep them informed of what is happening and do not marginalize or exclude, when they have a right to be included. Provide an equal opportunity for employees to participate in committees, task forces, or continuous improvement teams. Solicit volunteers and try to involve every volunteer.
  • Praise much more frequently than you criticize. Encourage praise and recognition from employee to employee as well as from the supervisor.

Respect is a cornerstone of meaningful work. Practiced consistently, these respectful actions help ensure a respectful, considerate, professional workplace and a respectful workplace brings benefits for all.

William Wallace