Dave Conrad: Every employee want to feel respect

Dear Dave: I am a manager and I am blessed to have a close relationship with most of my employees. I try to listen and react to what they have to say. During one employee review, my employee told me that he did not feel respected at work and that he was not the only one. I asked him what respect meant to him and he said that he wants to be trusted to do his work and then receive honest praise and feedback about how he is doing. I felt like I was not doing my job. I guess I thought I was showing respect to my staff and maybe I was missing the mark. What ideas do you have to help me respect my staff more? — R

Dear R:When you ask workers what matters most to them, feeling respected by managers is often number one on the list. In a recent survey of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, respondents ranked "showing respect" as the most important leadership behavior. However, employees report that receiving respect from their managers is often a very scarce behavior.

I would bet — and this is just a hunch — if you asked managers whether or not they show respect to the employees that deserve it, almost all of them would proudly and loudly proclaim that, of course they do. My hat is off to the managers that do treat their employees with respect, and that they don’t make it seem like they are doing something incredible or unusual — they just do it. I believe these managers know that, if they give respect, they will receive respect right back.

An overriding issue is that many managers do not have a full understanding of what constitutes workplace respect. I, personally, do not think that managers need to strike up the band and make showing respect a huge affair. Yes, there are times when awards should be given to employees showing strong performance. But, I think showing respect can be done in quiet, meaningful ways, where a simple "thank you" may make employees feel recognized … and respected.

In work environments that have a great deal of incivility among and between managers and employees, respect may seem like something found in another galaxy. The employees just come into work, do their jobs and go home. There may be very little dialogue between the managers and employees, and the employees have come to expect that. Unfortunately, there will also be very little, in terms of trust, recognition and rewards, given to them. Even worse, you have conditions where workers are motivated by fear tactics and they know they are not trusted, so they hide, making sure they avoid conversations and confrontations with their bosses. This is very sad.


Some respect approaches

I think we can agree that respect may mean different things to different people. In your case, your employee explained that respect is a matter of trust and a chance to learn about how he is doing, so – I assume — he can get better at his job. I would also assume this means not being over-monitored and certainly not micromanaged. He is not asking for much and you can deliver what he needs, if he is worthy of the trust he wants. I believe you can figure out if he is ready to do more challenging work, or even seek advancement. This assessment may be what he wants most. He just wants to know how he is doing and how empowered he can become. He probably already knows that doing good work on a continual basis should lead to the trust he so desperately wants.

Employees who feel respected are more grateful for — and certainly more loyal to — their companies. You can just sense it when you come into a work environment and see the staff proud of their work, acting very professionally and showing care and respect for each other. In many ways, respect is like the "gift that keeps on giving" (Cousin Eddie, Christmas Vacation). If employees are respected, there is a strong likelihood they will show respect to each other. This culture is ideal and will attract strong job candidates that want to work in this environment. I always tell my MBA students that, money will attract them to a job, but, it is the culture they are part of that will keep them engaged and motivated in their roles. Accordingly, when you look for work, make sure the company you choose has a culture that you crave.

Whether we are managers, or individual workers, we can all shape the environment we want by demonstrating the behaviors we want to see in others. Managers set the tone and shape the environment by their consistent and fair treatment of their staff. The demand for respect is ever-present — managers do not have to create it. But, they do have the duty of showing the right amount of respect to the right people in the right ways.

Accordingly, they must be vigilant and look for demonstrations of superior work. Then, they must show their appreciation for the performance that — in my estimation — leads to relationships built on trust and respect.

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