I recently gave a talk on the critical skill of taking an open stance. I shared that we all have different definitions of respect and that often it is the small things that matter to us. Respect is what employees all over the world want. Half of employees don’t feel respected by their bosses. (HBR, Porath 2014.) Other research shows that those who experience or witness disrespect have a significant decrease in performance.
One person shared that when volunteering for an organization, that she sat in for a person who was on leave. Everyone passed by her as they entered the workplace and only one person spoke with her during her week stint and that was the head of the whole organization. She kindly described this leader as respectful and that he made her feel valued and seen. Another person in the group had a very different experience. She shared that when she had an administrative position, many people greeted her and asked her about her day. She felt that they did not respect that she had work to do and that it was okay to interrupt her. She often had to stay late to complete her work and was glad to leave that position.
How do we know what people perceive as being respectful? We need to engage in conversations with one another. We often fail to have conversations about respect since we tend to believe that people “should” know what is the “right” respectful behavior. It seems obvious to us. However, we each have different background experiences and learned different strategies. We have different personalities and clearly intention does not equal impact.
We need to have the intention to be respectful. We also need to be aware and engage in conversations where we effectively share what we need to experience respect and be curious to learn what others need. Teams and organizations need to incorporate check-ins where people can safely share their experiences of respect.
Conversations about respect are essential these days when we collectively need a sense of openness and opportunity for all.