Human Resources

Create a Culture of Respect through Training

Would you say that there is a culture of respect at your company? In today’s Advisor, we’re providing 10 easy steps that can build such a culture in your workplace. These steps can be used in a brief, no-nonsense training session.

Highly effective workplaces often share a common characteristic—a respectful workplace culture. But what is “respect” in the context of the work environment?

Respect is esteem for others and valuing their ideas, views, and contributions on the job. It is accepting differences and acknowledging different perspectives, even when you disagree. Respect is honoring others and treating them as you would like to be treated.

Furthermore, respect is recognizing the rights of others and showing proper deference. It is being considerate of others in the workplace and behaving toward them in a courteous, professional manner.

Respect plays a crucial role in creating a productive, comfortable, and fair workplace for all. Respect is also an essential ingredient in conflict resolution, since it is the catalyst that allows differences to be negotiated to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.

Here are some concrete steps you can take to foster a shared expectation that cordial, professional behavior is the rule, and harassment and other disrespectful behavior won’t be tolerated.

1. Banish materials that disparage or make fun of protected groups. This includes an off-color joke or the e-mail making the rounds about [name a protected class]. If something might cross the line and offend someone, it probably does.

2. Don’t treat coworkers like family. TV workplaces encourage people to view their colleagues this way, but remember—they’re fiction. A friendly working atmosphere is a good thing, but keep things businesslike.

3. Rein in the profane. This helps keep the workplace professional. For example, it’s more acceptable in the workplace to say a machine is malfunctioning than that it’s “@#$%&*ed up.” Even if this sort of shoptalk isn’t really sexual in nature, some people may find it offensive, and the workplace is better off without it.

4. Beware the nonverbal. Make sure your supervisors know that harassment includes not just words, but also sounds, expressions, and gestures.

5. Lose dubious nicknames. That includes “honey,” “sweetie,” “gramps,” “psycho,” and worse. Even when used affectionately, employees may view nicknames as derogatory or disrespectful.

6. Deflect sex-life discussions. Tell supervisors that if employees come to them about problems in their personal relationships, it’s best to steer the conversation back to work-related topics. Supervisors can refer these employees to an employee assistance program.

7. Watch the hands. A brief, professional handshake or a tap on the shoulder to get someone’s attention is fine, but some cultures are much less “touchy” than others. Respect others’ personal space, and try establishing rapport with a smile instead of physical contact.

8. Keep compliments professional. Handle compliments on physical appearance with care. For example, he says, “That pin you’re wearing is interesting. Is it an antique?” She thinks, “What’s he doing looking at my chest?” Play it safe, and keep day-to-day pleasantries on the weather or other subjects that can’t be misconstrued.

9. Self-monitor mail and voicemail messages. There’s a word for e-mail or voicemail messages: “evidence.” Make sure your employees, especially supervisors, know not to say anything in e-mail or voice mail that they wouldn’t write on paper or wouldn’t want to be read in a court proceeding.

10. Make the first nine the “rules of the road.” All these rules apply whenever employees are on company business or functions, wherever they are. They apply both on and off company premises.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look more closely at how respect can be essential when working to resolve workplace conflicts.