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Getting the most out of your employees: respect them rather than tolerating them

Posted by Ann Caluori | Mon, 10/06/2019 - 15:40


Guest blog by Tom Buckland, Head of Content at Inspire Me


Almost everyone who has ever had a job will have a story of a terrible boss, an office screaming match or a woeful tale of stolen credit and fractured teams – but recent research shows that it is not necessary to tough out that difficult boss; for both business and workers to thrive leaders are the ones who should make a fundamental change and shift from tolerance to respect.


Tolerance vs. respect

The Oxford Dictionary defines tolerance as the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with. Respect on the other hand is defined as a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Instead of demanding “work hard and inspire me”, respect says “I am inspired by you”. Clearly they are two very different things and modern workplace research shows more and more that one holds the key to significant improvements in employee health and wellness and an improvement in performance. Tolerance is not all bad – many strong arguments are made that an intolerant workplace is not a healthy place but the concept itself points to an acceptance of the bad rather than a search for the good. While tolerance may allow for the trains to run on time at your workplace, respect is the thing that will make them go faster and sparkle a bit more than the day before.


Respect is vital

Respect was recognised as the most important trait that leaders should have by 20,000 employees in a global survey done by Georgetown University in 2014. The study showed that in workplace environments where there were high levels of respect there was a vast increase in self-reported health and well-being, increased focus by employees and increases in trust, feelings of safety, and job satisfaction. Writing on the outcome of this survey, research leader Christine Porath said respect outranked all other leadership traits in the eyes of employees including recognition, appreciation communicating an inspiring vision, providing useful feedback and even more important than opportunities for learning, growth, and development. She said they also found that respect led to increased retention rates in organisations and a vast increase in employee engagement.


Two types of respect

Writing for Harvard Business Review, leadership and management expert Kristie Rogers explained that employees who took part in her research defined respect in two distinct ways. The first was “owed respect”. “Owed respect is accorded equally to all members of a work group or an organization; it meets the universal need to feel included. It’s signalled by civility and an atmosphere suggesting that every member of the group is inherently valuable,” Rogers wrote. She said where there is little respect, micromanagement and over-monitoring thrives. The second type of respect described by Rogers is earned respect that is afforded to individual employees who display valued qualities or behaviours, recognising those who exceed expectations and each individual’s strengths and talents. Rogers cautioned that where earned respect is lacking, a workplace culture where there are false claims for credit and a failure to recognise achievements will thrive.


A healthy balance

Rogers added that further research indicates that there must also be a healthy balance between these two distinct types of respect, arguing that both the “we” (referring to collective employees) and the “me” (individual employees) must feel respected for their needs for belonging and status to be fulfilled, as this in turn leads to healthy self-esteem, proper identification with both the organisation and the role and psychological safety. She further argued that unhealthy workplace behaviours (like excessive competition and bad communication) could occur if the two types of respect are not in balance.


Self awareness

Christine Porath also did a separate piece of research finding that many leaders did not understand what workplace respect should be. Asking 125 employees to explain their rude or uncivil behaviour, they blamed a heavy workload and a time deficit and also never having had a mentor or role model displaying respectful behaviour. Porath said self-awareness is a vital component of learning to pay respect appropriately in the workplace. Backed up by extensive research all this data builds a compelling case for introducing open conversations about respect into an employee wellness programme.


A key to the future

Writing on the future of work Eric Mosely, the CEO of Globoforce, argues that there is a very definitive more towards a more human workplace as employees seek meaning and value in the jobs they do. “They want to ultimately understand how their efforts help their company succeed. They desire recognition for their contributions to the organisation, and rely on management and colleagues to provide that validation and appreciation of their work,” he wrote.