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Need to Change Your Company Culture? Start with Respect

Like so many of us, I am disheartened every time I hear about another #MeToo moment in the workplace. But I have to admit I’m not totally surprised. I believe some of the issues we are facing these days stem from a significant oversight: we haven’t cultivated an overall atmosphere of respect in our workplaces.

In many companies and organizations today, we simply haven’t put enough time and thought into what a respectful work environment looks, sounds and feels like. And though so many employees feel like being respected is key to enjoying their jobs and wanting to come to work in the morning, too often they feel they are not getting the respect they deserve.

One poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, for example, found that 65% of employees say respectful treatment of employees is a very important contributor to their job satisfaction. In contrast, research done in 2014 by the Harvard Business Review reported 54% of employees did not feel respected by their leaders.

This is a troubling disconnect for many reasons, especially since even just a small amount of effort could result in a culture shift.

But, I get it. Thinking about how you’re coming across when you interact with others and if you’re showing respect can often feel like one more thing you have to do in a day with too many things to do already– some people feel they are too busy and are wearing too many hats to stop and take the time to think about their communication.

It’s easy to push the idea of respect to the backburner, but paying attention to it is a difference maker. If leaders model respectful behavior, the people they manage will follow. An environment that fosters respect, cooperation, and challenges each employee to be their absolute best is the kind of place where people want to work and the kind of company other companies want to be in business with.

This is why teaching respect is at the core of our trainings at Patricia Cook & Associates—and why we work hard to help the businesses and organizations we partner with develop a culture that’s consistent, and accurately reflects their values.

And truth be told, it can be easier to create a respectful workplace than you might think.

Giving respect can be as simple as treating others as you would want to be treated, letting your people know their opinions matter and reinforcing that work is a place where they can feel safe.

When respecting others becomes a priority, it naturally flows through the culture of an organization. If you reinforce this with new hires and remind managers and leaders, this can lead to a commonality of thought. If you want to take steps to change company culture, here’s a helpful formula:

[proactively teach new hires] + [reinforce positive behavior among managers] = culture change

Acting respectfully won’t cost you any money, nor does it have to be time consuming. It’s more about making some small but powerful shifts. For example, a tactic you can use as a manager is to offer specific praise:

“The way you reworked that first paragraph really made a big difference in how we won that account”.

Isn’t that simple? I can bet that it also will make that employee feel more empowered to continue doing a great job.

Here are a few additional changes you can make to spread respect and get more of it back:

● Take the time to address colleagues by name

● Listen more and be present in the moment so people feel their opinions matter

● Make eye contact and have body language that says you care about what others are saying

● Speak to others the way you would want them to speak to you

● Proactively engage your team and sincerely ask their opinions

How do you approach the topic of respect in the workplace? What are some of the challenges you have dealt with regarding respect at work? Please share!

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