RESPECT: An Essential Ingredient for Employee Engagement

No one size fits all when it comes to engaging your people at work. But there are a few key ingredients that are essential if you are to keep the keepers. One of them happens to be respect.

Ignore it, fail at it or skimp on it – at your organization’s peril. Without respect, especially in a strong economy, you can count on the high performers and high potentials to walk out the door. And for those that stay for a while longer, they may do their job but don’t expect they’ll be going that extra mile or inspiring others along the way.

People work hard and want to be respected, appreciated and acknowledged for what they bring to their work – and for who they (not just their work title). This is true not just for employees in traditional work -but also for consultants, the bosses, and really most anyone who works.

Respect happens to be one of my top core values. I soar when I feel appreciated and respected. When I’m not, be it intentional or otherwise, it takes some of the wind out of my sail — I feel less enthusiastic and certainly less energized.  

Like Aretha Franklin said: Just gimme a little bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Hmmm. It sounds so obvious and, for many people, simply the right thing to do.  Yet, in just the last week…… I’ve had at least 4 conversations with clients, friends and aquaintances, who were lamenting about stories that clearly showed their workplaces were failing them miserably on the respect front.

They aren’t alone. Corporate Canada/North America is talking up the talent and engagement agenda like never before. But are they truly walking the talk?

Not so much, according to surveys spewed out almost daily. One company, Sirota Survey Intelligence, says their research is indicating that organizations are having a hard time retaining their people and it will get harder in the next three years. There are many reasons – but among their vast research they did focus some attention specifically on the respect issue (see their release).

  • This survey revealed that employees who do not feel respected are more than three times more likely to intend to leave their jobs within two years than those who feel they’ve been treated respectfully.


  • The good news, however, is that those who feel ‘very respected’ are not only more apt to stay, they are also three times more enthusiastic about their work than those that said they ‘feel good’ about the level of respect.

 So clearly it pays to pay attention this respect issue. We know that enthusiastic and engaged people tend to bring more of their best selves to work….and more good stuff happens.

Why is management so bad at this? Well hold on before we get too judgmental….

Sirota’s research says that management’s ‘sins’ tend to be more those of omission vs. commission. In other words, it’s more of an issue of indifference — failing to recognize and reward people’s good work rather than it being that of an abusive behaviour (although we have heard of ‘toxic bosses’ – but let’s leave that for another day).  While omission may be less intentional – the result is still less than good.  Lack of respect = lack of engagement = talent management drain.

So how ’bout we show just a little bit more R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

There are a zillion ways to do this. Here are just a few thought-starters (in random order)  – and I’d love to hear your ideas:

  1. Incorporate both formal and informal policies – making sure that behaviours align with what ‘respect’ should look like in big and small ways.
  2. Make sure everyone knows that this is not just an HR responsibility. This is everyone’s job – to create a respectful work-life for everyone.
  3. Teach your leaders coaching skills. Their behaviour towards their teams and direct reports is critical. Focus on areas such as empathy and to learn when and how to provide meaningful support and acknowledgement to inspire great work and to fully engage their team. 
  4. Remember you can keep it simple but it must always be authentic. An email or comment acknowledging good work can go a long way – but make sure it is genuine. Avoid giving hollow praise.
  5. Show respect for what your people have to offer and invite them to contribute ideas and collaborate where possible.
  6. Always share (or give) the credit when your team had any involvement in your success.
  7. Remember people are more than their job titles. Acknowledge them as people with real lives besides their work. “How was your weekend?” “How are your kids?”  – showing interest in people’s ‘whole’ selves goes a long way.
  8. Pay attention and acknowledge people for their unique strengths and contributions.
  9. Listen to your employees. I mean really listen and be open to their feedback (good and bad).
  10. Cultivate a workplace that appeciates diversity.
  11. MORE….

 Would love to hear from you on what inspires respect in your work-life? What works – what doesn’t?

Respectfully yours:) Eileen


One Response to “RESPECT: An Essential Ingredient for Employee Engagement”

  1. Team Taskmaster mobile edition Says:

    […] Managers who respect and appreciate their employees […]

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