Respect is one of the invisible and vital elements that make organisations work smoothly and effectively – or not. When respect is present, operations flow well. When absent, there’s friction, which comes with high risks and potentially high costs.
A recent report by McKinsey on COVID-19 and the Employee Experience, highlights respect as a major contributor to employee engagement, wellbeing and effectiveness. In organisations where employees feel fairly treated and supported by co-workers, respondents report a 51.8% increase in engagement, 49.8% increase in wellbeing and a 15.7% improvement in work effectiveness.
Respect is a precursor to trust and therefore critical to sustaining high-performance and wellbeing—not just in a crisis. Respect is timeless.
Our limited definition of respect
Respect is defined as: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.
This definition solely focuses on people, which limits your ability to sustainably lead an organisation. To improve workplace culture and profits, respect must be extensively applied. Respectful relationships at work refer only to interactions with others. Relationship to self or any relevant environment (especially nature) rarely factors.
A broader definition of respect comes from First Nations peoples who traditionally pay respect to all life. Respect defines how they interact with each other, other living beings, the land and the whole of the universe. Their definition of respect acknowledges the inherent value of everything. Roles are not just external labels. People grow into them until the role and the person become inextricable.
This can’t always be said in today’s organisational context where people are almost solely respected for their role. Ask yourself: are you respected as a person or because you’re the CEO?
3 enemies of respectful relationships
Three traits prevent high levels of respect:
Each trait struggles with respect for self, other people and systems (environments you operate in).
Unaware: There’s little self-awareness for what you need to function optimally. You have limited awareness of what’s happening with others. You don’t sufficiently notice your environments and nature, or how they impact everyone.
Uncaring: Good communication is non-existent, as is time for important conversations. You push for competition when collaboration delivers better results overall. You ignore the motivation, needs and abilities of others, and care little for environments that nurture people. You show little stewardship.
Uncommitted: You don’t fully take personal responsibility for everything that happens. You accept win-lose or lose-lose outcomes instead of influencing towards win-win results for everyone. You’re not committed to achieving positive impact for the whole system.
Developing respectful relationships
Overcome the 3 enemies of respectful relationships by practicing:
- Presence: Be fully present with yourself, others and nature. Be very attentive and notice what really matters in each moment.
- Listening: Listen deeply with your whole body and all your senses. Explore Dadirri, a deep listening and awareness practice by the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River Region.
- Non-judgmental: Be curious. Have an open mind to discover the inherent value in every being and thing. First understand, then be understood.
- Boundaries: Create spaces of psychological and physical safety by accepting and acknowledging healthy boundaries.
- Appreciation: Appreciate people and environments for what they are and not for their labels or titles.
- Empathy: Walk in the shoes of others. Treat people how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated.
- Acknowledge: Actively communicate the real, holistic value of people, things and nature to all your stakeholders and teams. By inspiring others to reflect on what they want to respect and value, you set the standard for ethical behaviour.
- Integrity: Commit to consistent reliability to build trust and show you care with daily actions.
- Self-Care: Remember to respect yourself first. Self-care is a service to others, allowing you to show up as your best self and create positive energy with everyone you come in contact with.
Respect needs practice and is an ongoing learning opportunity that requires high levels of communication. You won’t always get it right. By practicing it in this broader sense, you’ll reduce conflict, build trust and increase wellbeing for yourself, others and relevant environments.
You get less friction and more flow which leads to more sustainable high-performance, reduced risks and lower costs in your organisation.
Written by Ingrid Messner. Have you read?
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