What Is A Respectful Workplace And How To Create One

How To Create A Respectful Workplace
Yuriy K/Shutterstock.com
Summary: Respect is a requisite for a healthy work environment. It shows employees that they are valued for both their skills and as people. It’s also a sign of a high-functioning organization, as respect has been linked to increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, and performance.

Learn How To Create A Respectful Workplace

Nevertheless, despite a significant push to raise attention about the issues, not all organizations understand the value of a respectful workplace. To help, we’ve outlined everything you need to know to make your work environment fair, equitable, and civil.

What Is The Definition Of A Respectful Workplace?

A respectful workplace is one in which integrity and professionalism are displayed, and the skills to communicate and recognize one another are practiced. A respectful organization promotes diversity, encourages dialogue, and insists on civility from all employees, no matter their position in the org chart.

What Are The Benefits Of A Respectful Workplace?

There are numerous benefits of fostering a respectful workplace, including increased productivity and performance among individuals and as an organization.

Respect Increases Employee Engagement

In a respectful workplace, employees are significantly more engaged. Conversely, in an organization with little or no respect, there are more conflicts, lower attendance, and decreased productivity.

According to a Harvard Business Review study of more than 20,000 employees, the number one way to improve engagement and commitment to an organization is to have leaders demonstrate respect. In fact, the study reports that employees who said their leaders treated them with respect were 55% more engaged.

Make no mistake, engaged employees improve the bottom line. Researchers found that companies with the most engaged employees were 22% more profitable [1] than those with the least engaged employees.

Respect Contributes To Job Satisfaction

A respectful workplace is a key contributor to job satisfaction among employees. According to a 2014 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) [2], 72% of respondents rated respectful treatment of all employees at all levels as “very important.”

Job satisfaction is one factor in employee retention. A study by Employee Benefits News [3] on employee retention found that the average cost of losing an employee is 33% of their annual salary. Applying this figure to the median employee’s annual salary illuminates the problem employers face.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median yearly income is about $48,700. In other words, employee turnover costs approximately $14,600 per individual. This, of course, doesn’t take into account executives, who have significantly higher salaries.  It’s estimated to cost employers twice the annual salary of high-level employees [4].

Respect Facilitates Creativity

Organizations with high amounts of incivility are less creative than their counterparts. In one experiment reported by Harvard Business Review, participants who were treated rudely by other subjects were 30% less creative than other people in the study. There were additional effects as well. Rudely treated participants produced 25% fewer ideas, and the ones they did come up with were less original.

Respect Improves Customer Satisfaction

Employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. One survey found that 25% of employees admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.

Incivility also affects consumer perception. Researchers found that consumers are less likely to buy anything from a company they view as uncivil [5], regardless of whether the rudeness is directed at them or employees. In fact, witnessing incivility leads consumers to generalize other employees and the organization.

Respect Decreases Lost Time

Managing disruptions is expensive. One instance can take weeks of attention. One study found that managers and executives at Fortune 1,000 organizations spent 13% of their working time facilitating employees' relationships and dealing with the fallout of incivility. This is the equivalent of seven weeks a year.

Respect Increases Collaboration

When employees feel disrespected they are less collaborative. Researchers have found that employees who experience rudeness are 3X less likely to help others. On the other hand, studies show that civility enhances individual contribution and team performance by increasing the feeling of “psychological safety.” In other words, a respectful work environment fosters trust and encourages employees to take reasonable risks.

7 Ways To Create A Respectful Workplace

Every workplace is unique, however, there are universal ways in which organizations can establish a respectful workplace. We’ve outlined 7 of the most common ways to create a civil business environment.

1. Define Your Culture

The first step in creating a respectful workplace is to define it. Your organization's senior leaders, including the CEO and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), must determine your organization’s core values, valued behaviors, and engagement levels. They must also determine what is not tolerated. Once these organizational aspects are identified, senior leaders need to assess their organization to identify gaps. This establishes a benchmark and helps the leadership team develop an action plan.

2. Lead By Example

Employees model their behaviors after leaders. Leaders within your organization need to model and encourage the behaviors they seek to implement. This includes taking action when inappropriate conduct occurs.

3. Practice Diversity And Inclusivity In Your Hiring Practices

One of the most important ways an organization can foster a respectful workplace is by hiring employees from diverse backgrounds. A diverse workforce represents varied age groups, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, social-economic levels, and educational levels, among other attributes. Organizations should also consider flexible schedules, which can attract employees with familial obligations, such as children or older parents.

4. Ask Civility Questions In Your Hiring Process

You can help maintain a civil workplace by actively hiring employees who share your organization’s values and commitment to respect. During interviews, ask behavioral questions that gauge the potential employees’ skills. For example, you might ask them to share an example of when they made sure every voice in a room was heard. Or, when they went out of their way to solicit an opinion from a colleague that they knew they wouldn’t agree with.

5. Provide Training

Respectful workplace training aligns your workforce around positive behaviors by first defining the problem and then depicting unacceptable behaviors on both an individual and organizational level. Traditional training on the subject also aims to prevent harassment and discrimination.

6. Provide Bonding Experiences For Your Workforce

Bonding experiences help your employees feel like a cohesive group. They help people see their coworkers in a different light and allow them to develop stronger bonds. This has numerous benefits, including collaboration and performance. Team building exercises run the gamut of experiences, from happy hours to weeklong trips.

7. Check In Regularly

With the addition of new hirings and shifting business priorities, your organization's culture is constantly evolving. Therefore, it’s important to check in with your workforce to ensure your organization is meeting its own civility standards. A simple way to do this is to send out regular surveys to employees that enable your workforce to provide anonymous feedback and opinions on their work environment.

Statistics You Need To Know About Respectful Workplaces

In addition to the points made above, there are more statistics that illuminate the importance of establishing a respectful workplace.

According to the Harvard Business Review:

  • 98% of employees have reported experiencing uncivil behavior
  • 62% of employees report being treated rudely at least once a month

The same article reports that among workers who were treated with incivility:

  • 8% intentionally decreased their work effort
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined
  • 12% of employees said they’ve left a job because of uncivil treatment

Another startling figure comes from HR Acuity [6]. The company found that 85% of employees said they know how and where to report inappropriate workplace behavior and harassment issues, but 39% reported that they lack confidence that their issues will be addressed fairly. More concerning, 46% reported that they were afraid of retaliation.

Our final figure comes from The American Psychological Association. The organization estimates that workplace stress costs the U.S. economy $500 billion a year. Additionally, 550 billion workdays are lost each year because of stress on the job, 60 to 80% of workplace accidents occur because of stress, and more than 80% of doctor visits are because of stress.

Importance Of Respect In The Workplace

A respectful workplace is a necessity for top-performing organizations. It leads to happy, healthier, and less stressed employees, which in turn, drives productivity and improves the organization’s bottom line. By not fostering a civil work environment, organizations risk falling behind in today’s rapidly changing business environment.



[2] Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

[3] Avoidable turnover costing employers big

[4] Investing in People: Financial Impact of Human Resource Initiatives 

[5] Witnessing Incivility among Employees: Effects on Consumer Anger and Negative Inferences about Companies

[6] KEY Statistics on Civility