After reading workplace solutions expert and regular contributor, Erica Pinsky’s book, Road to Respect: Path to Profit, I wanted to know more.

In her book, Erica provides a wake-up call for employers by detailing why respect, as a core value, is so imperative. She then provides a persuasive argument why organizations should embark on the road map to respect. Particularly compelling are her personal workplace anecdotes as well as the case studies featuring some of the largest companies in Canada, who are getting respect right.

Below Erica discusses Road to Respect: Path to Profit, why creating a respectful workplace is so important and what organizations can do to become an Employer of Choice.

RW: Your book is about creating a respectful workplace culture? Why is that so important for employers?

EP: Human relationships are key to any business. The quality of those relationships is a critical determinant of bottom line success.  Ideally, employees should to be able to work together and communicate with each other to produce the best product or provide the best service for their customers and/or clients. This is particularly important in the reality of today’s recessionary economy. Companies that want to survive and thrive in these times must be resilient, creative and adaptive and that won’t happen without healthy workplace relationships, characterized by open and honest communication.  Disrespectful behaviors like harassment and bullying produce fear based cultures which diminish trust, resulting in damaged and destroyed relationships. This impacts directly on the bottom line.

RW: You give some great examples of successful Canadian businesses promoting respectful workplace cultures but is your book also applicable to US based businesses? If so, how?

EP: Absolutely.  After all, Canada is the largest US owned corporation!  Seriously, the basis for respect at work flows from the universal declaration of human rights, the idea that human beings, regardless of where they live or work, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Neither American nor Canadian employees want to be bullied or harassed at work.  Businesses that adopt respectful workplace practices will attract and retain the best and brightest, employees who are committed and focused on doing a great job. And that spells business success in the US and Canada.

RW:  We hear a lot about workplace bullying nowadays. What exactly is this and how does it differ from harassment?

EP: To put it simply, workplace bullying is a pattern of mean, nasty, rude behaviour at work.  It is intentional, power based behavior, where one person purposefully sets out to inflict  psychological harm on another person, either a subordinate or a co-worker. It can be overt, like yelling and public humiliation, or it can be overt and subtle, like spreading malicious rumours, constant criticism and unwarranted blame for mistakes or problems.

Bullying is different from harassment in a number of ways. Workplace harassment is a legal issue for employers, flowing from Title VII which prohibits discrimination on a number of personal characteristics like race, colour, religion and sex. Harassment is considered to be a type of discriminatory behavior. In workplace bullying, employees are not targeted because of race or sex as is the case with harassment.  Instead, they are targeted because they are bright, capable and good at their jobs: seen as a threat by those who bully, motivated by jealousy, competitiveness and insecurity.

RW:  Where do you suggest employers start if they want to create a culture of respect?

EP: Chapter 10 of Road to Respect, Leading the Change, starts with a quote from Albert Schweitzer – “Example is not the main thing in influencing others.-  It is the only thing.” Business leaders must start by asking themselves if they will be prepared to model the respectful behaviour they want to promote in their workplaces. The critical starting point must be dialog, lots of it, about what a culture of respect really means and what respectful leadership implies.

RW: You mention the 3 A’s of respectful leadership. Can you briefly describe those for us?

EP: The 3A’s of respectful leadership are accessibility, availability, and accountability. Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos is a great example of a leader who practices the 3A’s. He decided that if he was going to have an open door policy, he would get rid of the door altogether and sit among his employees, so that he could develop relationship and be part of the conversation on an ongoing basis. Respectful leadership is relationship based. Employees should be able to access leaders for support, clarification, or whatever they need to succeed at work. Many employees only have a conversation with their supervisor when something is wrong, or if they are fortunate to have an annual performance review. Respectful leaders ensure that they develop ongoing communication with each employee on their team, providing feedback and receiving feedback. Both leaders and those they lead know that they are accountable for demonstrating respectful practices that sustain a respectful workplace culture.

RW: Thanks Erica!