How to Make Employees Feel Respected

How to Manage Employees

Employees are like cars: They need fuel in order to function properly. For employees, however, the fuel isn't gasoline. Rather, it's respect.

"When you ask workers what matters most to them, feeling respected by superiors often tops the list," says Harvard Business Review contributor Kristie Rogers. "In a recent survey by Georgetown University's Christine Porath of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, respondents ranked respect as the most important leadership behavior. Yet employees report more disrespectful and uncivil behavior each year."

According to Rogers, employees value two types of respect, in particular: owed respect and earned respect.

"Owed respect is accorded equally to all members of a work group or an organization; it meets the universal need to feel included. It's signaled by civility and an atmosphere suggesting that every member of the group is inherently valuable," Rogers explains. "Earned respect recognizes individual employees who display valued qualities or behaviors. It distinguishes employees who have exceeded expectations and, particularly in knowledge work settings, affirms that each employee has unique strengths and talents. Earned respect meets the need to be valued for doing good work."

If your workplace is lacking in owed respect, there are simple ways to close the gap.

"Whether we are leaders or coworkers, we can all shape an environment where colleagues reinforce respectful cues and make social worth a day-to-day reality for one another," Rogers says. "Research points to specific behaviors that convey owed respect, such as active listening and valuing diverse backgrounds and ideas. For leaders, delegating important tasks, remaining open to advice, giving employees freedom to pursue creative ideas, taking an interest in their nonwork lives and publicly backing them in critical situations are some of the many behaviors that impart respect."

And what about earned respect? "According to a McKinsey global survey of more than 1,000 executives, managers, and employees, praise from an immediate manager, attention from a leader, and opportunities to head a project have more impact on motivation than do monetary incentives," Rogers concludes.

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Contact Successful Meetings Editor in Chief Vincent Alonzo with your "How To" ideas.