One of the ongoing features that I am hoping to add to this blog involves highlighting organizations and individuals who are getting respect ‘right’. But in researching this angle, I have found very few positive examples of respect in the workplace. As I scour the search engines, I keep ending up with results that either emphasize issues of disrespect or outline specific policies intended to increase workplace respect. There is very little online that champions those who are already practicing respectful behaviors in the workplace.

So how do we know what respect in the workplace should look like?

During our facilitated respect workshops, one of the first activities we ask participants to complete is to explore how they perceive respect. We have them describe a specific incident in which they felt respected at work and ask them what was it about the incident that made them feel “respected”. Linking emotional response is the key, because we then follow up by having them choose three adjectives (besides “respected”) to describe how they felt during the interaction. Typical responses include words/phrases like:

• validated
• important
• intelligent
• recognized
• safe
• valued
• included
• motivated

Consider how these feelings affect performance. Since most people process their world emotionally before intellectually, it’s likely that the presence of these emotions cause most of us to feel more confident, proud and committed to the quality of our work. Specifically, when a supervisor (or peer) praises us at work, our brain releases serotonin, a chemical that promotes emotional well-being and facilitates the acceptance of new ideas in the brain. It also promotes the active support of that person by mirroring their “respectful” behaviors back to them (and others).

Contrast this response to how we behave when we feel we’ve been treated disrespectfully. We probably don’t perform at our best and the quality of our work suffers. Such perceived hostile behavior (attacking) at work triggers the release of cortisol into our brain, which shuts down receptivity to new ideas and also diminishes the likelihood that we would go out of our way to help that person. Ultimately this leads to compromised relationships, emotional disengagement from work-related objectives, and a decrease in productivity…all of which negatively affect an organization’s bottom line.

Despite the all-too-numerous examples of disrespect in the workplace, we know that there are positive stories out there as well. Please share yours and tell us about those organizations or special individuals who are getting respect ‘right’.