The Importance of Respect in The Workplace & How to Demonstrate it

Respect in the workplace

In this blog we discuss the importance of dignity and respect in the workplace and how to demonstrate it.

Demonstrating dignity and respect towards others in the workplace is a core element of a leader’s role in creating a culture where employees feel valued and able to bring their whole selves to work. Not only does it create a healthy environment which improves employee engagement, wellbeing, satisfaction and retention, it also reaps dividends for the organization. When treated with dignity and respect individuals and teams collaborate more, leading to increased innovation and productivity.

What is respect in the workplace?

An employer’s commitment to dignity and respect at work helps to create a working culture where all staff are valued and respected. All staff should expect:

  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • A workplace free from bullying, harassment and victimization and, that if issues arise, they are dealt with promptly and appropriately
  • Not to experience any form of unlawful or unfair discrimination
  • To be valued for their skills and abilities
  • That when feedback is needed, this is given appropriately – whether positive or not

Dignity at work is an employer’s commitment to creating a working culture where all staff are valued and respected.

Why respect in the workplace is important

The aim for leaders is to create an inclusive culture where people feel valued and respected. There are a number of benefits of respect in the workplace for both employees and employers which we explore below.

1. A respectful and inclusive culture leaves less room for harassment or discrimination

Harassment and discrimination are unacceptable in the workplace. They will hinder staff from performing to the best of their ability and impair their career progression. Fostering an environment of dignity and respect helps set the tone that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated and that every employee is valued.

It also means in an appropriate way; either face-to-face with the individual or through other means according to organizational policy and procedure. In the last year, employment tribunals in the UK related to allegations of bullying rose by over 40%. Most of us have had to adapt to new ways of working in the past two years, but organizational changes to policies and procedures haven’t always followed suit. Acas provide guidance on the use of different communication methods, including social media, in bullying or disciplinary policies.

2. A culture of dignity and respect can reduce workplace stress

“18 million days of work were lost due to stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/2020” HSE 2020

A respectful workplace culture will ensure that all staff understand what unacceptable behavior is. It can take many forms and can range from physical attack to more subtle conduct. It can include actions, jokes or suggestions that might create a stressful working environment. It can also include the production, distribution, display or communication and discussion of material that may give rise to offence.

3. Encourage continuous development and a culture of learning

Ensuring we show dignity and respect to our colleagues demonstrates that we value them and their input. It means that when things go wrong it is dealt with respectfully and constructively. These should be learning opportunities where we can all grow and develop.

When organizations encourage this kind of learning and empower their employees to become more collaborative, their teams will be more able to share ideas and innovations, make decisions and take accountability without the fear of intimidation or telling off. This in turn, helps reduce workplace stress and improve staff satisfaction and job fulfillment.

4. Respect can increase employee engagement

A culture of respect in the workplace encourages innovation and idea sharing, as well as staff wellbeing, satisfaction, performance, and productivity. When employees know they are valued by their managers and team members, they are less stressed and more committed to their work.

5. Increase your organization’s ability to attract and retain talent:

Staff want to be in organizations that treat them with dignity and respect; that show appreciation and provide routes for them to develop professionally. High employee turnover is expensive for organizations in terms of the time and money it takes to hire and train new staff. You may also find that it becomes harder to recruit the best people if word gets out that your organization is not a good one to work for.

How dignity and respect at work shows

Dignity and respect show in individuals in many different ways.  Some of the attributes are listed below and include the ability to be:

  • Trustworthy
  • Able to react with consideration of others
  • Able to listen
  • Respectful of others and of self
  • Assertive
  • Recognize when compromise is needed
  • Principled
  • Tolerant (thought challenging)
  • Non-judgmental
  • Thoughtful
  • Courage to challenge, able to challenge with care and respect
  • Fair
  • Considerate
  • Open-minded
  • Able to ‘let go’ (when appropriate)
  • Honest

The above list is not exhaustive but gives an indication of the wide range of qualities through which dignity and respect can be demonstrated.

How to encourage dignity and respect

There are a variety of workplace conditions that encourage people to act with, and maintain, dignity and respect in the workplace, these include:

On a practical level:

On a personal level:

  • Inner strength
  • Self-belief
  • Vision
  • Determination

Examples of how to demonstrate respect at work

How can we show respect in the workplace? Below is a list of some of the things that employers and employees can practice to show respect for others.

  1. Active listening – use open body language and be attentive – don’t play with your phone or catch up on emails etc.
  2. Be authentic and honest – admit your own mistakes and be honest with your employees and colleagues about theirs whilst being constructive in your feedback.
  3. Support your colleagues and let them know you care – whether it’s sharing a problem or acknowledging you understand they have been under a lot of pressure will help show that you are supportive and there for them should they need you.
  4. Celebrate others success and achievements – recognizing other’s contributions improves team morale.
  5. Create an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe to share their ideas.
  6. Use respectful language – ensure that your communications, written and verbal, are inclusive.
  7. Challenge poor behavior and reinforce positive behavior – A key element in the role of an inclusive manager / co-worker is to effectively challenge behavior and language which does not meet expectations with regards to inclusion.
  8. Weave these behaviors into your organizational values and processes.

Ensure that behaviors related to dignity and respect are woven into your policies and into your induction processes and everyone is clear on what is and what isn’t acceptable. Incorporate questions geared towards these behaviors in your appraisals and recruitment processes.

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