Do you have a respect problem?

Written by Kevin Murray CCMI Monday 17 August 2020
Do your team respect you? Do you respect them? Do you call out disrespectful behaviour when you see it?
Statue of Lady Justice with her Scales

Everybody wants two kinds of respect: we want to be respected as human beings, and we want to be respected for our achievements.

The first kind of respect is owed – and should be given freely – to everyone equally. The second form of respect is earned when people perform well or behave in valuable ways; as such, these positive behaviours deserve to be recognised frequently. Sadly, employees feel that their bosses do not give either type of respect enough.

A lack of respect can have devastating consequences – such as highly demotivated people, who feel that their bosses treat them unfairly by failing to recognise effort when it is given. Nothing is more likely to cause disengagement and poor performance than this.

A specialist in the area of civility is Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in the United States. She believes that rudeness and disrespect are rampant at work and is, in spite of an age of heightened political awareness, actually on the rise. She has polled thousands of workers about how they are treated on the job and says that few organisations recognise the issue and take action to curtail it. Respectfulness is regarded as the most important characteristic of a manager.

My own research, among 4,000 managers and employees, shows that while more than 70% of managers feel they do respect their employees at work, less than 40% of employees agree. If managers could improve this, they could reap a massive payback and could see a huge leap in discretionary effort.

Never fail to be respectful

Charismatic leaders never fail to respect their colleagues and always lead by example. This means that they not only never treat other people with disrespect themselves, they never allow anyone else to either. They stamp on incivility when they see it. They foster mutual respect and courtesy.

They lead by example, and unfailingly treat people with courtesy, politeness and kindness. Even when they do have to discipline a member of the team, they do it in private, and respectfully – meaning they focus the conversation on the actions and outcomes at hand, rather than personal swipes at the employee.

They encourage diversity and are at pains to ensure that diversity encompasses race, gender and religion, as well as different working styles, personalities and generational attitudes. They know that genuine diversity leads to more agile teams, because it brings different ways of thinking together and unearths a greater variety of ideas, perspectives and skills.

They do, however, recognise that diverse teams can easily lead to people not always seeing eye to eye and to more disagreements – so they are always ready to step in and ensure that every member of the team is respectful, professional and even pleasant at work. Charismatic managers ensure that no one is disregarded; no one degrades another colleague, and no one makes another member of the team feel unworthy or unwanted.

Do you take care to manage your anger, or annoyance at work? Do you try to prevent angry outbursts, and curb provocative behaviours?

The benefits of respect in the workplace are enormous – civility leads to reduced stress, conflicts and problems in the team, because it leads to better communication and collaboration. That in turn leads to increased productivity, more agility and increased rates of innovation.

Respect contributes to job satisfaction, and also to employee engagement. It helps employees feel safe, trusted and willing to exert themselves in support of the cause. Good leaders never show disrespect to anyone.

Here are a few things to think about to ensure employees feel respected:

  • Do you always treat people with courtesy, politeness and kindness?
  • Do you encourage every member of the team to express his or her opinions and ideas respectfully and courteously?
  • Do you treat cases of genuine bullying and harassment with urgency and firmness?
  • Do you ensure that neither you nor any other member of your team ever insults, name-calls, disparages or puts down colleagues or their ideas?
  • Do you treat everyone equally and fairly, no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, nationality or personality?
  • Do you ensure that people are provided with equal opportunities to take part in committees, special projects, training and development opportunities?
  • Do you ensure that you criticise in private and praise in public?
  • Do you treat colleagues in other parts of the company, customers and suppliers with respect? How you deal with others will set a critical example for how you want the team to behave.

Kevin Murray CCMI, is a business author and speaker with more than 45 years of leadership experience. This is an exclusive extract from his new book Charismatic Leadership: The skills you can learn to motivate high performance in others (published by Kogan Page). You can find out more about his work here.

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