It has been widely reported over the past year how low employee engagement levels are. A recent study suggests that the answer may be blindingly straightforward.
The research, conducted by academics from Harvard Business School, suggests that showing employees respect is the single biggest thing that can drive engagement and commitment.
Employees revealed that being treated with respect was more important than recognition, an inspiring vision, useful feedback and even traditional demands such as learning opportunities and career progression.
Indeed, the results revealed that those employees who received respect from their boss reported 56% higher wellbeing and health scores, and were 89% more likely to enjoy their jobs. They were also shown to be much more likely to stay in their jobs and apply themselves with greater focus.
What’s more, the impact seemed to be cumulative, with the more respect given, the higher the engagement that came out the other end.
An unmet need
Sadly, it seems that many of us aren’t receiving the respect we crave. The study revealed that over half of respondents were not regularly receiving respect from their boss.
When finding out why this was the case, the researchers found that the most common excuse was being overloaded with work. There simply wasn’t enough time to be nice. Doesn’t really sound quite right, does it?
Most of the time, it transpires that managers are completely unaware that they are even being rude or disrespectful. Indeed, most will have perfectly good intentions, but lack the self awareness to appreciate how their behaviour is perceived by others.
This underlines the crucial role regular and candid feedback plays in the sound running of any organisation. It’s well known that we often suffer from the illusory superiority bias and therefore think we’re a lot better at things than we actually are. Frank feedback can help to shatter those illusions and provide us with a more realistic picture of how we’re perceived.
The paper reveals however that there are some potentially easy wins that can be obtained. For instance, at Campbell’s Soup, former CEO Doug Conant sent over 30,000 customised thank you notes to employees. These small individual gestures added up to something special and spread a culture of respect throughout the organisation.
What should managers do?
So it seems pretty clear that a respectful culture is a good thing, so how can one be fostered? The researchers propose three things that are key:
- Promote a culture of respect. This starts at the recruitment stage, where you should ensure you only hire those who are civil and respectful.
- Be role models yourself. When it comes to civility, managers need to lead the way by acting and communicating in a respectful way themselves. This should also be measured for and evaluated in regular performance reviews from both peers, customers and bosses.
- Correct bad behaviour. The final aspect is to make sure that disrespectful behaviour is corrected. Telling people what is expected of them and how they can behave more respectfully is key.
If you can do those three things well then you should hopefully build a respectful culture, and one that all employees enjoy working in.
Image source: Career Pivot