Showing Respect in the Workplace: a Step-By-Step Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The maintenance of mutual respect in any workplace is one of the best ways of ensuring that work proceeds smoothly, that staff feel valued and that unnecessary conflict is kept to a minimum. In most cases, showing respect in the workplace comes naturally to people. However, there are times when it's more of a challenge due to context, and it's always good to have a reminder. In this article, we explain the importance of respect at work and how to show and encourage it.

Related: Important Workplace Social Skills

What is respect in the workplace?

You can usually determine if there is respect in the workplace by how people behave. In an environment of respect and dignity, employees show that they value each other, feel valued themselves, take pride in their work and receive equitable treatment. Showing respect might mean proper deference to experienced members of the organisation, considering everyone's input, and contributing, along with all members of the team, to common goals. Respect ensures that these collaborative relationships function effectively and that each individual's efforts are validated and recognised.

Respect also helps a team get through difficulties. If difficult circumstances arise or people make mistakes, each member acknowledges their part in it without fear of reprimand. Rather than focusing on blame, a team working in an environment of respect is going to find ways of learning and moving forward.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definition, Types and Tips for Improvement

How to show and foster respect in the workplace

As you're quite often going to be spending your working time interacting with others, knowing how to show and encourage respect at work is a valuable skill. Below is a list of things you can do to show respect and encourage others to do the same:

1. Establish some basic requirements

One of the most effective ways of ensuring that respect governs workplace interactions is to establish a minimum standard of acceptable behaviour. This is an acknowledgement of the dignity that everyone deserves as a human being and must be adhered to regardless of the circumstances. It's also an acknowledgement of the fact that everyone has something to contribute. Accepting this ensures that you both respect them and maintain a positive attitude.

A minimum standard of behaviour requires everyone to adhere to it, so encouraging it is often going to be a proactive process. You might consider speaking to your colleagues or supervisor about developing a list of basic rules for workplace interactions. If you see someone fail to adhere to these rules, speak to them respectfully about the importance of maintaining them.

2. Consider and encourage input from everyone

Once you've ensured that there's a minimum standard of behaviour, you can consider how people's opinions are received. In a respectful workplace, everyone ought to have the opportunity to state their opinion and contribute ideas at some point. This is especially useful during meetings and brainstorming sessions, where additional input can positively affect the team's success.

If someone is trying to state their opinion, listen actively and try to understand what they're saying from their point of view. Avoid interrupting where possible and show that you're attentive. Ask additional questions if you need something clarified. This ensures that they feel heard, and they're more likely to listen when it's your turn to speak. If you feel that there are team members who are hesitant about speaking, actively seek their input and encourage others to listen to them.

Related: 8 Effective Leadership Tips

3. Validate the efforts of others

In addition to listening and considering the input and opinions of others, it's also a good idea to validate and recognise them. For example, if someone has contributed in some form, thank them for it. If their contributions help change your mind or alert you to something you'd have otherwise missed, tell them how much of a help they've been. When encouraging people to always contribute, acknowledging their efforts is an important step. This can greatly increase their feeling of value and make them into better team players.

One of the best ways of doing this is by offering specific, professional compliments. If someone made an excellent point, tell them how insightful it was. If an individual has been consistently helping others and ensuring that work proceeds smoothly, acknowledge how they help keep everything running and organised. If you've seen improvement in someone's skills or attitude, congratulate them on the achievement and recognise their efforts.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Management Styles

4. Be understanding of personal issues

People deal with workplace relationships differently. Many people are happy to make friends at work, whereas others prefer to maintain a strict divide between their professional and personal relationships. This is a personal preference, and you must always respect it. If you're aware of certain personal issues that are affecting colleagues, avoid mentioning them unless they initiate the conversation. Be considerate of the fact that personal issues can affect workplace performance. You ought to encourage and support your colleagues when they encounter difficulty.

It can sometimes be difficult to ascertain if a colleague is troubled by something, as they may not tell you. If you notice that they seem unusually withdrawn, appear stressed or are otherwise acting differently, you might consider asking them if everything is alright. Offer to listen to their problems if you feel it might be appropriate and try to encourage others to be understanding as well. Always try to validate their feelings and apologise if you've contributed to or exacerbated the problem in any way.

5. Emulate the respectful behaviour of others

Consider the people you work with and try to identify those who are the most respectful. Determine what it is that they do and seek to emulate it. Often, you may find that very respectful people are consistent with small gestures of respect. These individuals exhibit behaviours that naturally help develop a respectful atmosphere, and you ought to emulate them whenever possible.

Very often, the actions of a respectful person are most evident in how they treat the people whom they supervise. Most people are naturally respectful of superiors in the office, but this may be less common when people deal with those who are lower in the company hierarchy.

Related: Integrity in the Workplace: Definition, Examples and Tips

6. Consistent gestures

A good way of acknowledging others and showing respect is by making small gestures consistently. Many of these are a matter of politeness, but being consistent with them ensures that you're both respectful and considerate. For example, remember people's names and use these to address them when speaking, make eye contact when someone is speaking to you, hold the door for others and always offer to help. These small gestures of respect generally require very little effort but can greatly contribute to a respectful work environment. Other gestures and behaviours like this include:

  • Always say 'please' and 'thank you'.

  • Speak at a moderate volume.

  • If you're making tea or coffee, offer it to others.

  • Always be punctual.

  • Only offer advice if asked to do so.

  • Respect other people's personal space.

  • Greet people and acknowledge their presence.

Related: Key Attributes of Professionalism in the Workplace

The benefits of respect at work

When there's an environment of mutual respect in the workplace, the company and its employees benefit from this in many ways. Some of the major benefits of a respectful workplace include:

  • Employee retention: Employees who consistently feel respected and valued are far more likely to remain with the company in the long term. They're also more likely to seek an internal promotion, as opposed to seeking higher positions elsewhere.

  • Lower stress: A respectful environment helps people relax and feel safe, which can greatly lower the amount of stress in the workplace. People are going to be more pleasant to each other and hard-working as a result.

  • Greater employee engagement: Every employee in a company is a valuable asset, and if they feel respected, they're going to be much more likely to engage and contribute. Showing respect costs nothing, but the company can greatly benefit as a result.

  • Fairness: A significant part of respect is equitable treatment of others, regardless of their position or relationships. This can ensure that the workplace is fair, meaning that there's less opportunity for the development of resentment or feelings of unfair treatment.

  • Happier customers and clients: If colleagues in the workplace are respectful and supportive of each other, they're much more likely to have positive interactions with the company's clients or customers. This is because they feel valued and supported, which improves their demeanour and grants them extra patience for customer service interactions.

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