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Cultivating a Respectful Work Environment

January 2nd, 2017

A senior manager in the Federal civil service was kind enough to give me an interesting report recently. It’s a review on how to cultivate a respectful work environment. It’s very well sourced and powerful information for any company and team. Here are some of the highlights:

Disrespectful behavior is “disturbingly common” in the workplace. While everyone is familiar with the issue of harassment, incivility and disrespectful behaviors are just as destructive. They’ve become more commonplace, and can undermine and erode the culture of a team as well. Part of the reason is that they may be much more frequent, taken less serious, perceived as ‘normal,’ or thought of as acceptable conduct. Or is that just being hyper-sensitive? That’s for you to decide.

What’s included in that definition? Demeaning remarks, taking credit for someone else’s work or ideas, questioning someone’s judgment, taking behind people’s back, not turning off cell phone, or maybe doubting someone’s motives, judgments, or intention. Beyond that, the report suggested more negative behaviors of blaming versus taking responsibility, texting during meetings, hiding behind emails, forgetting the basics of please and thank you, or talking down to someone.

94% of people responded that they’ve been on the receiving end of many of these. What’s worse is that most don’t differentiate between the “offender” and their company. They see their employer as a willing accomplice. And that impacts performance when two-thirds admit it declines when exposed to these behaviors. 25% of people even admit they take it out on clients or customers! If these truly are, or should be, thought of as a problem, there’s a measurable impact when they don’t happen.

So-called “respectful teams” have 26% more energy, and are 30% more likely to be enthusiastic. 36% say their job satisfaction increases and 44% are more engaged and committed to their company.

The report specifically discusses the downside to emails and the risk for miscommunication. To translate that into Colors: The large group of Blues can more easily interpret a benign message in a negative light. Yup – nothing replaces face to face conversations. In broader terms, the motives of different Colors can be interpreted very differently. The downside is that sometimes perception can be reality.

Employees look to their leaders and managers to set the tone and to get their sense and direction of “how things work around here.” Or in the words of Russian novelist Leo Tostoy: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one things of changing himself.”

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Colors quiz answers: Blue – Gold – Green – Orange

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