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How to Encourage a Culture of Mutual Respect at Work

If you’re looking for a way to inspire respect from your employees, start by looking at leadership practices. To cultivate a workplace culture of respect, senior team members must set the example themselves. Mutual respect comes when employees and leaders understand they’re working toward a common goal that benefits everyone. Trust and respect motivate staff members to be curious, productive and driven to succeed on your behalf.

Being respectful doesn’t mean being lenient or overlooking indiscretions. It means being polite, showing appreciation and bringing out the best in people by validating positive actions. Read on to find out more about the benefits of fostering a respectful culture at work and how to approach implementing it.

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Definition of mutual respect

Mutual respect occurs when leaders set the example of being respectful towards employees, and employees respond by reflecting this behavior. Not only are they more likely to show managers respect under these conditions, but also each other. When people feel respected, they want to work harder and do better for the organization.

Every leader wants to oversee a workplace where the team respects the team leaders, as well as each other. Conflict, rudeness and petty behavior are a drain on productivity, taking up valuable time that could be used striving toward meeting goals or hitting targets.

The extent to which workplace leaders are responsible for whether a culture of mutual respect exists can’t be overstated. Organizational psychologists have studied the trickle-down effect extensively in recent years. This theory suggests that behaviors and traits demonstrated by leaders trickle down to employees, and ultimately, determine workplace culture.

Top benefits of mutual respect in the workplace

It’s not just motivating to feel trusted by your employer, it’s validating and can reinforce positive actions. When good work is reinforced, engagement and productivity soar.

Engaged employees are passionate about the company’s mission, which is, in turn, communicated to clients, who get a better impression of your business. And it doesn’t end there. Let’s take a look at the main benefits of instilling a culture of mutual respect in your organization:

  • Better retention: Every leader knows that staff are one of the biggest costs, which makes them one of your greatest assets. High staff turnover can be debilitating for companies due to the costs of hiring and training new team members. Creating a culture of mutual respect makes employees feel valued and engaged, leading to better retention rates.
  • Improved collaboration: When there’s a culture of mutual respect at work, employees treat each other better. This removes friction from collaboration and prevents time from being wasted on petty squabbles that often occur when people don’t feel respected or valued.
  • Sense of belonging: Most people spend more time at work than they do anywhere else. It’s a community, and encouraging trust and respect inspires a sense of belonging and togetherness that’s impossible to foster in a fractious environment.
  • More productivity: When people feel stressed, productivity suffers. Stress often occurs because people are anxious about performance or don’t know where they stand. Approaching feedback respectfully and being intentionally constructive can go a long way to boosting morale and productivity. On the other hand, blame, judgment and thoughtlessness can negatively impact productivity.

Cultivating a respectful culture at work

It’s clear to see how mutual respect drives commitment and loyalty, in addition to boosting productivity. Below are some important practices to cultivate or refine in your quest to make your workplace more mutually respectful.

Lead by example

The most important facet of a mutually respectful workforce is the leadership team. Include mutual respect in the description of your core value and mission statements, and communicate the importance of being respectful to your senior employees. This is the best way to inspire respect from your employees.

Be careful to stipulate that being respectful doesn’t mean being overly permissive. Your leaders can be diligent, focused and hard-working while being kind and respectful.

Don’t be afraid of showing vulnerability

Being a vulnerable leader is a careful balance. Demonstrate too much and you risk employees feeling insecure. However, you should be prepared to leave your ego at the door and be vulnerable when necessary.

For example, say an employee encounters a learning curve. A leader who tells them about a time they overcame an obstacle is more likely to inspire that worker to move forward and succeed themselves. This is in contrast to simply scolding your employee and telling them they should fix up and do better.

Empathy is an important part of cultivating respect, and showing it at opportune moments can be profoundly inspirational.

Be clear about expectations

Employees feel more secure when they understand what’s expected from them. A detailed job description, code of conduct, core values and a mission statement that’s shared with employees help them understand how to excel. It demonstrates your clarity and commitment to your cause, which can go a long way to inspiring respect from employees.

Express appreciation and gratitude

For most people, trust takes time to build and develops in incremental steps. Learn what makes each employee feel appreciated, and be sure to demonstrate the behavior regularly, so they feel seen and valued. Always notice and affirm a worker who goes over and above in their role.

Ask questions and listen

Leaders who don’t care tend to struggle to gain full respect from employees. You want to avoid being seen as someone who doesn’t listen or pay attention to your team’s needs. Be curious about your employees’ lives, and ask for their opinion about work-related topics. When they answer, be attentive and show that you genuinely care. In many cases, you’ll hear amazing ideas that you can implement and give them credit for.

Celebrate together

The value of team building is astronomical. But instead of sending employees to events or activities without you, go with them. Building a personal rapport with your team and showing generosity demonstrate that you care and are willing to go over and above. In return, you’ll inspire loyalty and increase the likelihood they’ll go over and above for you.

Provide opportunities for personal growth and career development

One of the best ways to make employees feel valued is to invest in their progress. Opportunities for training and potential promotions are two of the biggest motivators at work. If your team sees you reward progress with the option for more progress, they’ll respect you as a true leader and motivator.

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