The following is an excerpt from “The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace” by Paul Meshanko.

In order to understand the potential respect has for unleashing the best in an organization, we first have to recognize what it does at the individual level. There are all sorts of behaviors, many that vary from culture to culture and even from person to person, that may trigger the emotional feeling of respect in the recipient. Here are just a few:

  • Offering a verbal compliment
  • Giving them public recognition
  • Including them in an important discussion
  • Making direct eye contact
  • Seeking their opinion on an important matter
  • Asking them for assistance
  • Supporting their work and objectives
  • Offering assistance to help them succeed
  • Referring to their opinion and expertise
  • Addressing them by their first name
  • Showing an interest in their work
  • Showing and interest in their family
  • Showing concern for their health & well-being
  • Giving them your undivided attention
  • Validating their opinions and ideas
  • Sharing your limited resources
  • Referring or recommending them to others
  • Being completely candid
  • Making a personal sacrifice for them
  • Defending them in front of others
  • Empathizing with set-back or loss

What’s interesting about these behaviors and their supporting entourage of verbal and nonverbal cues is that they all have the potential to evoke strong, positive emotion. More specifically, they trigger the release of powerful and pleasurable chemicals in our brains that we interpret as positive emotions. Dr. Ellen Weber, Director, MITA Brain Based Center, was recently quoted in HR Magazine:

Social fairness and respect help employees learn. When we show interest in others, support them and praise them genuinely, we ‘squirt’ a chemical mix of serotonin and oxytocin into their brains. These neurotransmitters encourage trust, open others’ minds to our ideas, and create desire to get to know us better and to help with whatever we need done.

Over the years, I’ve queried literally thousands of participants on the emotions that surface when they are treated with respect. Here is just a small sampling of their responses:

  • Happy
  • Validated
  • Important
  • Energized
  • Part of the group
  • Safe
  • Intelligent
  • Motivated
  • Engaged
  • Committed
  • Inspired to work even harder
  • Accepted
  • Vital
  • Honored
  • Proud
  • Needed
  • Trusted
  • Valued

On its surface, this feel-good list of emotions looks nice. But, does it make a difference in the quality and quantity of work people do? To answer the question, imagine that when you leave your home to go to work each day, you take an invisible backpack that contains all your emotions. When you arrive at work, your backpack probably contains emotions that were generated by your commute. Rather than leaving this backpack in your locker or desk, you carry it with you throughout the day. Every time you interact with someone, the contents of the backpack change to reflect the emotional quality of your interaction.

Do these emotions cause a change? When asked, the vast majority of respondents answered in the affirmative. The universal response I have received on five continents can be summarized this way: In the presence of these emotions, we are likely to be doing the very best work we are capable of for our organizations. That level of effort can translate into significant organizational advantages.

Tell us in the comments below what respect means to you and your organization.