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A guide to respect in the workplace: Benefits, signs, and examples

Last updated

8 December 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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In a workplace context, respect typically refers to valuing the qualities, skills, and positive attributes of coworkers and employees, treating them with professionalism and consideration.

However, creating a shared understanding of what it means to be respectful to others in the workplace remains a challenge. That’s despite an increasing number of companies embracing the concept of workplace respect.

What does workplace respect mean?

Creating a respectful work environment is important for developing a positive work culture. A respectful workplace promotes professional and considerate interactions between employees. This, in turn, encourages employees to bring their unique qualities, experiences, and skill sets to work—crucial for a healthy work culture.

Why is respect in the workplace important?

Building a respectful workplace has many advantages for employees and employers.

Respect reduces stress

A culture of respect can ultimately reduce workplace stress. But, for this to be possible, organizations need to let their employees know what kind of behavior is acceptable and unacceptable at work. Unacceptable behavior should be dealt with quickly before a toxic environment develops.

Respect increases productivity and collaboration

Respect in the workplace is known to increase employee engagement, primarily because it encourages idea sharing and innovation as well as high productivity and performance.

Furthermore, when employees feel their coworkers and manager value their contributions, they tend to feel less stressed and more committed to their work.

Respect improves employee satisfaction

Establishing a respectful work environment is crucial for developing a positive work culture. A respectful workplace promotes the celebration of uniqueness in terms of individual characteristics, ideas, and approaches to work. This allows employees to feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, which is crucial to a healthy work culture.

Respect creates a fair environment

A respectful working environment prevents people from playing favorites and gives everyone a chance to be heard. Every employee has the same voice as their coworker, and all ideas are appreciated, regardless of who they come from.

Treating all individuals fairly and equitably in the workplace ensures organizational decisions are based on performance and merit rather than favoritism or other potentially discriminatory factors.

Characteristics of a respectful workplace

To create a more respectful and positive work environment, organizations must address several key areas:

Diversity and inclusion

A diverse workforce benefits a company as it brings together individuals with different experiences, perspectives, skills, working styles, ideas, and personal values. Diversity helps to improve innovation and strengthens company growth.

However, treating all cultures and individuals with equal respect is critical to obtaining the full benefits of a diverse workforce. Every individual should feel a sense of belonging. When team members accept and respect each other’s points of view without bias, employees feel valued and are more likely to share their ideas.

Constructive feedback

Constructive feedback plays a crucial role in promoting respect in the workplace. It switches the focus from individual objectives toward shared goals, reframing conflicts in a positive light.

When providing constructive feedback, offer actionable points and specific examples that the other person can use to improve rather than simply pointing out their mistakes and making sweeping statements. This approach fosters a culture of growth and development, which is essential for the overall success of the employee and company.

Equal opportunities

Providing equal opportunities for employees doesn’t mean ignoring their differences. Instead, it’s about ensuring that each individual has a chance to succeed in their job and that they are evaluated based on their professional skills and accomplishments rather than specific personality traits or relationships.

Leaders and managers must focus on merit and performance to provide equal opportunities to everyone in the organization. They should be diligent in avoiding favoritism when considering internal and external opportunities for their employees.

When decisions are made based on personal biases or relationships, there’s a risk of mistreating people and discriminating against them. For this reason, it’s important for employers to judge employees solely on their professional abilities and potential, regardless of any other factors.

Respectful communication

Effective communication is an essential part of everyday interactions. It can include greeting others warmly, giving them adequate space to express themselves during group discussions, and avoiding disrespectful language. All of these behaviors demonstrate a positive workplace culture and help significantly during times of conflict.

In a workplace that values respect, conflicts such as disagreements, errors, and personal feelings are resolved without resorting to blame or aggression. Respectful communication enables employees to develop essential skills like active listening, which can enhance communication and strengthen relationships.

How to show respect in the workplace

Managers, employers, and coworkers can show each other respect by

  • Being tolerant

  • Being open-minded and non-judgmental

  • Being thoughtful and considerate

  • Being honest and trustworthy

  • Listening and allowing two-way conversation

  • Recognizing when compromise is needed

To create a respectful workplace, employees, managers, and other workers should also

  • Avoid swearing

  • Avoid gossiping

  • Greet others with kindness

  • Not display discriminatory behavior

  • Show appreciation for employee contributions 

  • Be sensitive to employee needs

  • Practice positive communication skills

  • Demonstrate company values

What is the ROI of workplace respect?

A respectful workplace environment can make working a more pleasant experience for everyone and benefit companies as a whole by making them more successful.

Here are some of the ways a respectful workplace can boost your business’s return on investment (ROI):

1. Reduced stress among team members

Businesses should put measures in place to reduce employee stress, as it significantly impacts their overall health.

Relaxed colleagues who are free of stress are more at ease and willing to share their ideas, collaborate with colleagues, and work together toward achieving common goals. This, in turn, fosters increased respect among coworkers and has both mental and physical benefits.

2. Improved productivity

A business that appreciates and values new ideas and ways of doing things opens up opportunities to boost efficiency and foster continuous improvement. Such a workplace also provides opportunities for individuals to learn from one another, creating an environment that promotes skill development and progression.

3. Increased employee satisfaction and happiness

Employees who feel respected at work tend to be happier and more satisfied with their working life, managers, teams, and the company as a whole. This makes them more likely to stay with the company, possibly even applying for internal promotions and moving up the ladder. If they become a manager, they will likely lead their teams with the same level of care and respect they have received themselves.

The organization will benefit in the long run by having reduced employee turnover and higher productivity.

The consequences of a disrespectful workplace

A lack of respect can do real damage in the workplace. It can result in poor customer service, high employee turnover, inefficient productivity, and lower-quality products or services. At its worst, disrespect can also lead to the loss of customers, reduced market share, poor brand reputation, and potential lawsuits.

Here are some of the negative consequences of a workplace that lacks respect:

1. Attrition and unfilled roles

When leaders or managers fail to show respect to their employees, it sends a message that there is no psychological safety, leading to a loss of trust. Leaders cannot effectively lead their teams without trust and respect.

Companies need to understand that a good leader is one who exemplifies organizational values and follows company rules and policies. On the other hand, a bad leader is one who creates a toxic environment that can drive talented employees away.

2. A shortfall of creative ideas

A lack of respect at any level in the organization can lead to communication problems and poor team connections, which can create an unwelcoming environment for team members. This ultimately results in inefficient problem-solving and can prevent growth as employees may hesitate to share their ideas or utilize their skill sets.

However, when companies encourage open communication and idea-sharing, they can help create an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up, leading to better collaboration and an overall increase in productivity and growth.

3. A demoralized workforce

A lack of respect in a company can lead to a serious, toxic working environment. Disrespect can make employees feel insignificant, negatively affecting their mental health, self-esteem, and overall performance.

Additionally, constantly experiencing disrespect can harm employees’ personal well-being, potentially resulting in legal repercussions.

Five ways to promote respect in the workplace

Companies can promote respect in the workplace in countless ways. Grand gestures are unnecessary. In fact, in many instances, simple gestures can go a long way in showing coworkers you care.

1. Choose your words carefully

While constructive criticism is critical for growth, letting employees know they are doing well is also important. Set an example of positivity and gratitude for a job well done. When you lead with positivity, you encourage others to do the same and express their appreciation and support.

2. Make soft skills a priority

Soft skills, also known as social or interpersonal skills, encompass abilities such as critical thinking, empathy, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. These skills have become a top priority for workplaces worldwide, even surpassing other skills that were once considered the primary requirements for career advancement.

When companies focus on hiring employees with soft skills that align with company values and expectations—or developing those skills within current employees—it makes maintaining respect in the workplace significantly easier.

3. Encourage inclusivity in the workplace

Organizations should focus on diversity and creating an inclusive environment where all employees, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age, or other characteristics, feel welcome and appreciated. Diversity is what drives innovation and new ideas in an organization.

4. Clearly articulate zero tolerance for harassment

Organizations must take a firm stand against all forms of employee harassment and discrimination. Otherwise, they can face serious consequences, including lawsuits and loss of business. The management team needs to implement strict policies against harassment and discrimination and have effective methods to deal with it when it occurs.

Companies should provide ample information about employee rights as well as confidential reporting procedures for workplace discrimination and harassment.

5. Be transparent

Creating an environment of respect can only be achieved through transparency. Organizations can build trust with their employees and earn their respect by promoting openness and clear communication.

To achieve transparency, the first thing organizations should do is make information accessible to employees. Everyone should know where to find the details about a specific project or company initiative. Offering enhanced access to information will help employees take ownership of their performance and make them feel respected and valued. 

Additionally, the business should encourage two-way communication and an open-door policy.

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