Why bother with respect in the workplace? 3 ways to change perspective for greater respect among the team

People & Culture

Respect. Why bother?! I bet that got your attention.

I’ve experienced a number of work environments—ranging from weak to intolerable, from crisp white collar to shades of blue. My passion for workplace culture started early in my career and continues to develop.

With these experiences I found the notion of respect to be a distant desire. With teams manipulating one another, it was apparent to me that encouraging respect between team members was anything but a priority.

I lead by example and stopped caring whether I was respected—and encouraged others to do the same. In doing so, conversations like the one below were not uncommon.

Union employee:…they (other employees) need to show some respect!

Me:Why? Have you given them a reason to respect you?”

Union employee:I’ve been here long enough. Respect should be a given!”

Me: Try this: stop expecting respect. Respect seems like a mighty high bar to set in this environment. Could you expect courtesy for now—the same courtesy given to a stranger? When courtesy becomes the norm, we can work on respect. You’ll never control whether a person respects you, but you can always request common courtesy.”

Union employee (softly nodding): …I guess.”

I wouldn’t call this a solution, but it was a great conduit for shifting perspective. With a change in perspective, a shift in behavior is possible.

In order to change perspective and ultimately behaviour, there are three simple steps I follow:

Always determine the true catalyst that created the behavior or perspective

What was the event that created the reaction? When you treat the behaviour without considering the event you haven’t managed anything but the behaviour.

Dive into this—you’ll have a far greater shot at extinguishing negative conduct, not just muffling it.

Go for the outcome

This isn’t permission to bully an employee into compliance. This simply creates an understanding around the outcome and makes employees aware they have the opportunity to create a better one for themselves.

Connect, human to human

We are all human and we all have bad days.

Similar to looking at the catalyst to bad behaviour, make an effort to relate to the person. Relate without making it personal. It helps if you consider yourself in their shoes. Give employees the gift of understanding and they just might surprise you how they shift. If they don’t, refer to suggestion two above.

Need help creating a courteous working environment? I can help. Let’s chat.

Shannon Pearson


Shannon Pearson is a champion of culture and engagement at incrementa (un)consulting. She helps create high performance teams by connecting people to the organization’s DNA: it’s core values and purpose. Leveraging proven methodologies, she increases engagement and connection while reducing conflict.

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