Editor’s note: this post was originally published June 11, 2008.

A company’s culture is one of its most important assets. Culture plays a role in helping to attract the best talent and it is absolutely vital to engaging, developing and retaining that talent. And while no single culture is best for all organizations (or even functions within an organization), there is one cultural variable that is universally beneficial.


An environment of respect provides an emotional safety net that frees people up to do their work without having to expend energy watching their backs and protecting themselves from the potentially harmful words and actions of managers and co-workers.

When people feel emotionally safe, they’re more creative, more focused, more open to new approaches, more supportive of company objectives, and usually more willing to go the extra mile to help get there. There is no downside to a respectful workplace atmosphere.

So how do you get there?

While supporting and maintaining a culture of respect is everyone’s job, it must start at the top. CEOs, COOs and VPs, listen up!

Mission, vision, values and policies that describe respect can be important communication vehicles, but they are meaningless without behavioral congruity. The attitudes and behaviors of senior leaders are where the rubber meets the road. If you really value respect, you have to precisely describe (and communicate) what it looks like and then hold yourselves 100% accountable for role modeling it.

When there are transgressions (which there will be since we’re all human), they need to be admitted and apologized for immediately. No one gets a “pass” because of rank or special talent. Only with the highest commitment to accountability at all levels can any organization truly begin reap the benefits of a respectful workplace.