In a previous blog (R-E-S-P-E-C-T: How To Earn Respect At Work), I discussed ways employees can earn respect at work. But earning respect shouldn’t be a one-way street – it should also be embraced by employers. Respect isn’t just something subordinates are forced to give managers. It’s a valuable asset for employers to show and earn in the workplace. Earning employee respect isn’t always easy, but when employers find ways to build respect at work, positive benefits ensue. How do you build employee respect at work?
According to Bruce J. Avolio, Ph.D., executive director at the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking in the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, five tips for employers/managers to earn the respect of employees include:
- Be authentic: Be an authentic reflection of your organization’s espoused values and principles while promoting transparency and justice.
- Promote ‘ownership’: Make all employees feel like ‘owners’ versus ‘renters’, that their voice matters, and that people in positions of power listen to learn and engage with their employees.
- Develop potential: Help each individual feel like they are reaching their full potential and achieving their performance goals by investing in development.
- Create an energized culture: Create a positive climate where your followers’ energy is directed towards winning against competitors versus defending against internal detractors from what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Sacrifice when necessary: Be willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the organization when such sacrifices contribute to everyone’s success.
Bill Mixon, president of Universal Hospital Services, Inc., believes the key to earning employee respect is to empower employees and model the leadership behavior you desire by treating employees with dignity and respect. “If employees respect a person’s leadership, they are more prone to put those same leadership qualities into practice. Empowering employees to make decisions also builds trust. When you show employees you trust their knowledge and skills, you allow them to make smart decisions that benefit the company.”
Developing employee potential is also important. Notes Mixon, “When employees feel valued and appreciated, they take stronger ownership of their work and seek new opportunities to grow in their roles. This not only benefits the employee, but also the company and its customers.”
Howard Behar, retired president of Starbucks Coffee Company, used this same tactic of showing employees they are appreciated to help establish the Starbucks culture, which stresses the importance of people over profits. For example, Starbucks made sure there were no special perks for executives. “All employees are called ‘partners’ and there is no separation in any way of partners and the management team. Outside of pay and stock, every partner gets the same, even the same health insurance. We did this because it was the right thing to do, not because we thought it would help us build respect,”Behar explained.
In addition, the Starbucks management team held ‘open forum’ meetings where any partner could ask anything and they would address it. “It was open dialogue, and I mean really open dialogue during these meetings. If they wanted to debate what I was paid as the president of the company then they could,” said Behar. “No topic was off-limits.”
The management team also included a feedback card in every partner’s paycheck asking for comments on anything that seemed in contradiction to the company’s values and morals – with Behar reading every feedback card submitted. If an executive didn’t live up to the values and morals of the company, the organization would eject that individual. Behar added, “You could get fired a lot faster for not living the values than not achieving the financial numbers.”
Bottom Line: Are you a manager/employer looking to earn the respect of your employees? Then focus on relationships and trust. The foundation for earning respect is establishing good relationships with employees by building trust within the organization. Explains Behar, “If people are feeling trust, they will be more productive, are more willing to take risks, be creative, and solve difficult problems. It doesn’t mean issues won’t arise, but it means you can withstand just about anything because you can talk things through.”