A respectful workplace culture is not only lawful but is key for building on a company’s success and brand. A positive workplace where employees treat one another with respect and courtesy is far more likely to operate at high levels of productivity. On the other hand, a workplace where employees feel disrespected is likely to experience high rates of turnover, low levels of productivity and engagement, and decreased morale. According to a study on the price of incivility reported by Harvard Business Review, employees who experienced rude or disrespectful behavior at work intentionally decreased their work effort, spent less time at work, decreased the quality of their work, and felt less committed to the organization.
A respectful workplace is one where all employees are valued, recognized, treated fairly, have clear expectations, and work harmoniously. It is an inclusive environment where differences are acknowledged and celebrated, communication is open, conflicts are addressed early and resolved, and where there is a shared mindset around the organization’s values and policies.
Creating a culture of respect and civility starts at the top. Leaders must define, communicate, and model the types of behaviors that their organization embraces, as well as articulate those it will not tolerate. Shifting the current culture and behaviors of a workforce is not something that will happen overnight, therefore, it’s important that you have a clear strategy in place to build a respectful, harassment-free culture. Here are some effective steps you can take to begin to build a culture of respect in your workplace.
1. Define the Culture
The first step in building a respectful workplace culture is to define it. The CEO, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and other senior leaders should determine the core values, valued behaviors, and engagement levels you desire in your organization, as well as those you will not tolerate. Once the desired culture is outlined, you will need to assess your current work culture to identify the gaps. Knowing what your culture looks like today is necessary to develop an action plan to cultivate the respectful workplace culture you desire.
2. Lead by Example
Leadership has a strong influence on how people behave. As a leader of your organization, you need to model and encourage the behaviors you seek as well as take action when inappropriate conduct or harassment occurs. It’s important that employees see that their top management team holds themselves accountable to the same behaviors and standards that are expected of the group.
3. Involve Your Employees
Remember that culture is shaped by the aggregate beliefs and behaviors of the work force. While leadership sets the tone, employees also contribute to the organizational culture. When employees feel valued and included, they are more engaged, productive, and committed to the organization.
Once you’ve defined the culture and values you want to instill in your workplace, involve your employees by sharing your action plan and asking for their feedback. Provide them with opportunities to share what’s most important to them in a workplace environment, how they want to be recognized and rewarded, and how they prefer to communicate. This will not only promote an inclusive and open culture, but also will allow you to understand how your employees view your current company culture and can bring to light issues you may not be aware of. Engaging your employees in the culture shaping process will also go a long way in earning their trust as a leader.
4. Provide Training
Along with anti-harassment trainings that educate employees on identifying and preventing harassment in the workplace, seek out additional training opportunities that focus on creating a culture of respect and inclusion in your workplace. The purpose of these trainings is to equip all levels of employees with the knowledge, tools, and confidence needed to cultivate a civil and respectful workplace environment. These trainings can involve defining respect, how to deliver and receive feedback, how to recognize and avoid stereotyping, how to resolve conflict, and how to identify and report harassment.
5. Check in Regularly
Your culture is a living, breathing part of your organization that develops and changes over time as your business grows. To maintain a positive culture, your organization’s core values need to be lived day in and day out by everyone. As new employees enter the organization, current employees transition into senior roles, team members depart the company, or new projects or goals emerge, your culture can easily start to shift. Therefore, it’s essential to keep an active pulse on the behaviors, perceptions, and concerns of everyone in the organization to ensure you’re maintaining a positive workplace culture. An easy way to do this is to regularly send out employee surveys, allowing employees to anonymously provide their feedback and opinions on their work environment and team members, as well as express any concerns or issues they may be experiencing.
Establishing and maintaining a workplace culture of respect, inclusion, and positivity is essential to the productivity, growth, and continued success of your company. By implementing these tips, you’ll be well on your way to building a respectful workplace where everyone feels they are an integral part of the company and are committed to the organization, its values, and goals.