7 Ways to Master the Respect Effect in Employee Engagement

Guest Contributorby David Zinger | Posted | Engagement

7 Ways to Master the Respect Effect in Employee Engagement

I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. - Jackie Robinson

Margaret, the Director of Marketing for Plastics Inc., was planning her exit from the organization. She was often ignored in staff meetings; her boss just kept loading work on her. She seldom received acknowledgement, let alone recognition. When she offered a difference of opinion other directors just rolled their eyes. Margaret's days seemed like an eternity.

Duane was a relatively new junior purchasing agent for Dynamic Inc. He was encouraged, appreciated, and given autonomy in how he worked. He was held accountable for his errors not through punishment and scoffing but through conversation, learning and plans for the future. Duane was offered another job with more money but there was no way he was leaving Dynamic.

I believe the respect effect is the positive influence respect has on work, engagement, relationships and productivity. The negative respect effect is how even one occurrence of disrespect can have negative impacts on individuals and organizations. We need permanent, pervasive and heartfelt respect in our organizations, as even one experience of disrespect can wash away much of the respect effect. Respect is like oxygen: it helps people breathe and inspires trust and connection, while a lack of respect will suck the breath of life out of work.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means for productivity and engagement

There is no way to respect in the workplace - respect is the way. A lack of respect or disrespect hurts ourselves, our colleagues and our organizations. Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University, studies respect and civility. In a survey of 20,000 employees conducted through Harvard, respect from leadership was more powerful in eliciting employee engagement than recognition, appreciation, inspiring visions, feedback and opportunities for learning and growth. While researching the price of incivility, Christine found that when employees aren't treated with respect:

  • 48% decreased their work effort
  • 47% decreased the time spend at work
  • 38% decreased the quality of their work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
  • 66% said that their performance declined
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined

I had the opportunity to attend a session on respect and work by Paul Meshanko at the ATD conference in Orlando, Florida, this May. He outlined the rules of respect and the neuroscience behind employee engagement. I appreciated his definition of respect. He said it was an active process of nonjudgmentally engaging with people from all backgrounds to increase awareness and effectiveness in a manner that esteems both ourselves than those we work with. Respect is not a vague concept or merely a good feeling.

For 25 years, I was a counselor educator at the University of Manitoba. We taught our students that respect was one of the three core conditions for a good helping relationship. Effective counsellors are empathic, respectful, and genuine. This makes all the difference for client relationships and progress. Nothing less is required in the workplace; we thrive with the experiences of empathy, respect and being genuine.

7 ways to master the respect effect

1. Begin with self-respect. Be kind and caring to yourself. This is not to let yourself off the hook but to ensure you don't get hooked. As Henri Frederick Amiel said, "There is no respect for others without humility in one's self."

2. Don't confuse respect with liking. You can respect someone you don't like and without respect it is almost impossible to have safe conversations to resolve differences.

3. Value people. This is not a vacuous statement in your organizational values or a framed picture on the wall. It is the 101 things you do each day that demonstrate you value others by where you place your time and attention.

4. Be empathic. Leave your ego behind in challenging situations and strive to see the world from the other person's perspective. You don't have to agree with the other person but you should respect how they came to their point of view. Remember that understanding does not imply agreement.

5. See your nemesis as your teacher. One way to increase your respect for people you struggle to respect is to learn from them. If they push your hot buttons, try to use their behavior as a trigger for learning and equanimity.

6. Weight the costs of disrespect. Porath outlined the costs of incivility; make sure you calculate these costs before going into a rage or doing something that sucks respect out of a relationship or a team.

7. Increase personal mindfulness and interpersonal curiosity. The best way to transform judgement is to turn it into curiosity. Most acts of disrespect are not calculated but occur due to a lack of awareness of our behavior. At times, our intent and impact fail to align. For example, you intended to lighten the mood through joking, yet the impact was to offend the other person. Be prepared to apologize and to use inadvertent disrespect as a chance to learn about yourself and others.

Respect: You get what you give

Alan Hamilton said, "I call horses 'divine mirrors' - they reflect back the emotions you put in. If you put in love and respect and kindness and curiosity, the horse will return that."

I think the same is true for humans - we just don't see it as easily. If you want to cross the finish line at work each day with engagement, results and strong relationships, don't wear blinders about the dynamics and the impact of the respect effect.

What Employees Need to be Engaged


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What Employees Need to be Engaged


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