R.E.S.P.E.C.T - show your team what it means

Without respect, any relationship is difficult and establishing and maintaining trust is impossible.

Respect is defined as: Due regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others. Synonyms include: consideration, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, politeness, courtesy and civility.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Showing the individuals in our team respect may be a little more complicated than first impressions imply.

Respect is a major motivator

According to a global research project into workplace experiences conducted by Christine Porath, associate professor of management at Georgetown University, and Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, respect is about “how something is conveyed – your tone and non-verbal communication – not a separate action”.

And it is absolutely worth focusing your time and attention on. The research found that “no other leadership behaviour had a bigger effect on employees”. Being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition and appreciation, communicating an inspiring vision, providing useful feedback – or even opportunities for learning, growth and development.

That’s certainly food for thought. 

We could be getting all of the other critical leadership actions right while undermining ourselves, as leaders, and the results of our team through a simple lack of (or inconsistent approach to) respect.

Mutual respect… a lack of

Our current status quo is concerning, because according to a review of this research by Marcel Schwantes in his article What employees want to see most in their bosses comes down to a single word  “over half of employees claimed that they don't regularly get respect from their leaders, suggesting less engagement, more turnover, and less focus and productivity at work – all costly factors stemming from disrespectful behaviours that Porath says are ‘contagious’."

There’s that word again – contagious. It is critical that, as leaders, we remember that our behaviour and our mood is catching. If we are showing disrespect, our teams are likely to be as well. The impact could be exponential.

Of the 20,000 people surveyed in Porath’s research, 25 percent of respondents said that they don’t have a leader role modelling respect at work and “they're just behaving as the leaders do… monkey see, monkey do”.

Why don’t we do it?

A lack of respect is, like many behaviours, not born out of bad intentions but a product of needing to improve our own self-awareness. I’d hazard a guess that most leaders would believe they were treating people respectfully most of the time.

It’s worth taking a long hard look at ourselves, however, because the results of employees who reported being treated respectfully by their leaders include having:

  • 55 percent more engagement at work

  • 56 percent better health and well-being

  • 1.72 times more trust and safety

  • 89 percent greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs

  • 92 percent greater focus and prioritisation

  • 1.26 times more meaning and significance in their work.

That’s a whole lot of ‘bang for your buck’, right there! These numbers once again reinforce that it’s often the smallest of actions that have the biggest impact.

Like all leadership behaviours we are looking to improve, we need to explicitly ask our teams whether they feel that we are treating them with respect. Because it’s specific to the individual, we won’t always be able to tell, even when we take the time to stop and reflect on our behaviour.

It may feel like a slightly awkward conversation to have, but like all ‘elephants in the room’, we need to surface it, before we can decide what we can do to fix it.

Below is a list of 10 daily practices that show respect to your team. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on those we are already doing well and those practices we could improve upon and bring about positive change.

Keeping respect at the heart of everything we do not only makes great business sense, it  also helps to make us great humans.

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Celeste Halliday