Respect. Earn it or learn it. You need it.

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There is enormous focus on diversity on the workplace. This is a complex challenge to say the least. Fortunately there is a common thread which may help you find your way through this labyrinth. Its called respect and it is impacting on your business as we speak.

How many times have you returned home in a foul mood at the end of the day because an incident took place where you felt you were disrespected? How many long-standing marriages and relationships have you seen disintegrate where the core complaint has been around respect? How many gang related battles and deaths have been triggered through a lack of respect for territory? How many times have you heard of your HR department having to spend hour upon hour handling formal complaints relating to a lack of respect, in order to avoid legal action or lose good talent?  

Lets take it broader. The emergence of 24-hour news channels and instant media platforms such as Twitter provide a stage for global audiences of un-equalled proportions. One of the most popular audience drivers is disrespectful behaviour by high profile individuals, from politicians and celebrities to captains of sport and royalty. The exposure is instantaneous and a matter of public record, in seconds. Just think of the shenanigans in our South African Parliament as a prime example.

This may provide good entertainment value but sadly it also highlights that truly bad human behaviour, at its worst, is not the exclusive property of less informed individuals where ignorance might be a justification. My concern is that when informed people, who are entrusted with such enormous responsibility, demonstrate total disrespect, it can affect so many aspects of our daily lives. This ranges from business confidence to the deterioration of international relations let alone your business ambitions.

But we aren’t here discussing global peace or the fall from grace by government, the financial sector or FIFA. We are here to discuss your success. So I would like to share a few thought starters and insights that are worth considering for your future:

What is the role of respect in your business?

In today’s increasingly competitive environment, companies are not only battling for market share, they are striving to attract the best talent to help achieve this. In turn companies are now expected to clearly demonstrate that they provide an environment in which their employees are likely to be happy, satisfied and motivated to deliver.

Obviously creating the right environment requires the implementation of a comprehensive set of processes and disciplines beyond respect alone. But, like a virus, the lack of respect reaches across all ranks indiscriminately, including peer-to-peer engagement.

If the prevailing environment in an organisation is one where people feel that they are valued and respected, as the norm, it creates an environment where they feel safe and welcome. And they then perform better and stay longer. Simple.

 Exactly what is respect?

The answer is open to interpretation. What may appear to be simply bad manners, a lack of sensitivity or ignorance to one person could easily come across as a clear case of disrespect to another.

 I personally favour the following definition to provide some clarity:

"Due regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others".                           

Feelings, wishes and rights. The depth and breadth of consideration that these three words demand illustrates why it takes far more than merely including a flippant statement in the Company Policy document.

A company that takes the time and effort to understand all three values will not only be addressing this issue but in so doing will be creating an over-arching work environment that will attract the right calibre of talent to your company.

 Will there be fallout if respect’s not present?

Short answer, yes! When people feel disrespected it manifests in a number of ways such as poor staff morale and low productivity. The fallout is not passive. They will set out to balance the scales in one way or another. Sometimes it takes the form of petty theft, absenteeism or “work to rule”. At other times it could be the intentional undermining of authority. The impact extends to less obvious penalties, such as poor company reputation which may even result in greater damage such as discouraging top talent from joining. Not only entry-level talent but also potential executives in the “C-suite” or future investors.

 Is respect out-dated or has it developed new modalities?

Whilst respect evidently remains a cornerstone of good personal behaviour, there would be no point holding onto something that is no longer relevant in business.

There are many aspects of business that have gone through such enormous change that it amounts to a paradigm shift and has resulted in business behaving differently to three decades ago. A primary example is the impact of technology. Trading borders are largely removed and sensitivity to cultures and habits different to our own are entering the framework.

The rights of the individual now reaches farther into the workplace. Discrimination is outlawed with increasingly protection regulation and legislation entrenching the value of respect in the world of work. Never mind outdated, it has been materially updated.

 If you haven’t yet earned it. Learn it!

In encouraging my Clients to up-weight the importance of respect as part of their company values, I share four primary motivators.

  1. Diversity in the workplace is now the norm.  

 Companies have never before experienced the degree of diversity that we experience today. Not only do we have cultural diversity but an array of people who come from such vastly different environments to work together in a single workplace every day. Unless we make the effort to understand and embrace this diversity, we risk conflict, demotivation and discord.


       2. Respect is an energy and commitment driver.

When people enjoy being in an environment, they will not only work beyond the call of duty but will work to protect their relationship with the company. This results in motivation and commitment beyond conventional financial incentive.

      3. Respect must be a company-wide foundation. 

Respect cannot be applied on a selective basis. For this value to truly form part of your culture, it must permeate every level of interaction. The manner in which you treat the lowest paid employee should not differ from the top earner. To be a truly great company however, this attitude must reach beyond your payroll list. The manner in which you treat your suppliers, contractors, consultants, regardless of the fact that you are paying for their services, should be the same as you expect to receive.

      4.Practicing respect can be executed in small ways, every day.

Find everyday, simple ways of practicing respect.   These include, for example, thanking the tea-lady for taking away your lunch take-away packet, complimenting a junior on keeping a clean desk, respectfully declining a quote from a supplier with a one-liner note of thanks for their trouble each takes about 30 seconds. However, the act of acknowledging someone’s effort assures them that they are not invisible, meaningless individuals and has a lasting effect. Respecting their role, regardless of how small, contributes to the overall energy of the organisation and sets you apart as a leader, manager or colleague.

 Make a mental list of 10 small expressions of respect that you can put into play daily and see what the effect is for yourself.

The bottom line.                                                                                              

Respect is by no means an outdated value. We are faced with new rules of engagement today. There has been a paradigm shift in how we do business and what is expected of the work environment. When it comes to respect and its role in the workplace, this means that you now have to earn respect. It doesn’t end there. You need to enlighten others so that they also gain understanding and opt into a healthy practice.

It may sound like an unnecessary, additional burden on your already full “survival plate” but the returns will be more than a healthy, happy work environment, it will translate into financial benefit. With due respect.

If you want to know more why not contact me or  buy my book The Art of the Suit.Click here to find out more.



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