We’re often told leaders need to give respect in order to get it, but leaders aren’t the only ones who should be concerned with respect in the workplace. Those who want to be part of high-performance organizations also need to put respect front and center.
But what does respect have to do with high performance?
In a recent piece for the Harvard Business Review, Marquette University professor Kristie Rogers explains her research on a “technology-focused business-to-business marketing firm staffed largely by inmates.” Rogers’ research gave her unparalleled insight into the importance of respect in the workplace. As she writes, “Nowhere are the differences between a disrespectful environment and a respectful one clearer than in a setting where people shift back and forth each day between being inmates and being employees.”
According to Rogers’ research, resilience and respect are worth understanding and improving in your organization if you want to create a high-performing organization: “A respectful workplace brings enormous benefits to organizations. Employees who say they feel respected are more satisfied with their jobs and more grateful for — and loyal to —their companies. They are more resilient, cooperate more with others, perform better and more creatively, and are more likely to take direction from their leaders.”
Per Rogers, respect drives employee resilience, which is a particularly important trait in today’s business world. Change happens fast, and traditional hierarchies are crumbling. It may be unrealistic to expect employees to feel confident and fully engaged at all times under these conditions, but developing greater resilience in the face of major transitions can help individuals maintain high levels of performance and enthusiasm at work. This, in turn, helps the entire organization navigate the harsh business climate.
For resilient employees, transitional periods like leadership changes, the introduction of a new product line, or an office move become less draining. They are able to keep working through it all, no matter how chaotic things may get.
But the question remains: How do you create a respectful workplace that nurtures resilience?
Respect = Resilience = Organizational Performance?
To cultivate respect and resilience among workers, a company must first make these attributes foundational values of its culture. Genuine connection between members of the organization, including employees and leaders alike, is also required.
The best way to create those connections? Ask your people questions and listen to their answers. When was the last time you asked your employees — or your leaders asked you — something like:
- What is one thing you feel we are doing well as an organization?
- What can we do to ensure that we achieve our organization’s goals for this year?
- What does your manager do that inspires you to deliver your best work?
- Can you share an experience or story that demonstrates effective leadership or outstanding teamwork at our organization?
These questions can be feathered into one-on-one conversations, asked casually, or posed in formal surveys to capture higher volumes of employee insights. However the questions are asked, the purpose is to start conversations in which employees can express their authentic thoughts and feelings.
When organizational leaders ask employees to weigh in on critical decisions and then act on that input, they demonstrate respect for their workers. Workers will, in turn, begin to feel more respect for their leaders. It is easy to forgo questions in favor of making decisions more quickly. However, this not only inhibits the growth of a respectful work environment, but it also ultimately dampens organizational performance.
Plus, if leaders don’t leverage their employees’ experiences and expertise, they run the risk of being blindsided by events that can threaten the organization’s resilience.
Ultimately, leaders should encourage activity that will lead to high-performance as an organization. If resilience is one step toward performance, and if respect nurtures resilience, then organizations must start asking more questions to cultivate more respectful work environments.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Waggl blog.
Bridget Zapata is a marketing specialist at Waggl, the most human way for organizations to crowdsource feedback.