Respect is one of the most critical leadership behaviors. It is also the most significant contributor to employee engagement. Feeling respected by colleagues, especially managers and other seniors, is a big deal for employees. Signs of respect increase employee confidence and self-worth. Confident employees are engaged, proactive, and loyal. Confidence also colors how employees feel about themselves in the context of their careers, life, and future. 

Though respect is essential for engaging with anyone, sometimes leaders/managers leave respect out the door. Here are some examples –

  1. Not joining meetings on time.
  2. Sending meeting invites without an agenda.
  3. Interjecting when others are speaking.
  4. Multi-tasking during conversations.
  5. Not responding to emails/phone calls
  6. Making feedback about the person rather than behavior or performance.
  7. Focusing disproportionately on what is not done well and ignoring what is.
  8. Not inviting perspectives from team members and peers.
  9. Not keeping their word.
  10. Not sharing relevant information.
  11. Not respecting differences.
  12. Putting results above people, even during tough personal times for team members.

What else may you be doing consciously or unconsciously? I am reminded of a quote – Respect is like air. As long as it is present, nobody thinks about it. But if you take it away, it’s all people can think about. Lack of respect causes disengagement, reduced effort and quality of work, and lesser commitment to the organization.  

Do you have a culture of respect in your organization?

An organization’s culture is how people behave with each other and the actions they take every day. A common mistake leaders make is thinking that it is about how other people behave and not how they conduct themselves on a regular basis. The fact is that creating a culture of respect starts at the top. Leaders must lay out and model the behaviors acceptable in the organization. Leadership behavior ripples through the organization because people mimic leaders. The examples leaders set get replicated in how employees behave with each other and how they treat customers, vendors, and other community members. Creating a culture of respect is not easy and takes continuous effort because it is not something written on a wall or document. Instead, it is a way of life that leaders need to reinforce by demonstrating respect. They may put in place mechanisms to induct new hires, policies, and governance to hold employees accountable, but leaders create real impact by consistently setting precedents for desired behaviors.

Creating a culture of respect is ongoing and relentless work. The payoff of a collaborative environment where all employees feel treated with dignity and work towards flourishing with the organization is worth the effort. What will you start doing to build a culture of respect? What will you stop doing?