By: Kayla Bell on November 7th, 2014

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How to Best Promote a Respectful Workplace

Communication | Helios HR | Employee Relations

Studies show that a healthy work environment help lead to both the overall health and well-being of individuals and higher engagement of your employees in the workplace. A respectful workplace can be defined by a number of qualities within your organization; example qualities include:

  • employees are treated fairly and respectfully;
  • an environment free from harassment and discrimination;
  • a workplace where individuals work collaboratively to help each other succeed instead of put each other down.

No matter how your organization defines a respectful workplace, ensuring a culture of respect is not always as easy as it seems. A minor miscommunication can easily spiral into an on-going difficult working relationship that, intentionally or not, leads to disrespect amongst your employees.

Four Simple and Effective Steps to Promote a Respectful Workplace

Step 1: Define and Communicate Expectations.

It’s hard to hold your employees accountable in any scenario if you haven’t communicated your expectations. Writing policies that relate to the way your organization expects your team to treat one another will help communicate expectations formally. Suggested policies include:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Anti-Harassment (including Sexual Harassment)
  • Anti-Discrimination
  • Business Code of Ethics and Conduct

In addition to formalizing expectations in writing, these policies can help to protect your organization in the event of litigation.

Step 2: Let your Leadership Team be the Example. 

Your organization can’t just talk to talk; your executive team needs to walk the walk. It’s a fair assumption that if your experiencing problems related to respect in the workplace amongst the executive team, your support staff is likely encountering even larger problems. Respect in the workplace starts at the top – and should be fair and consistent regardless of title/position within the organization.

Step 3: Provide Employees with Training.

Simply telling employees to be respectful and communicate appropriately isn’t enough to make an impact on the current culture. Each individual has their own perception of what is the “appropriate” way to communicate. Consider offering training related to defining respect, exploring various methods of communication, how to deliver and receive feedback, and additional training topics related to effective workplace communication. The important takeaway of this kind of training will be: a) providing your team with an understanding of the potential unintended impact of their current communication styles and; b) equipping them with the tools and knowledge to begin implementing small changes in their technique that will have a big impact on employee morale.

Step 4: Be Open to Feedback.

As an HR Consultant, I often find that the executive team’s definition of their organization’s culture differs greatly from their employees. It’s important to understand that the culture within an organization can easily shift based on strategic goals, new projects, new team members and managers coming into the organization, as well as certain individuals departing the organization; so the culture that you were certain of five years ago may be very different today. The best way to understand the employee perception of respect in the workplace is to ask for their opinion; however, if you’re going to ask for employee opinion it is strongly encouraged that you are open to receiving and acting upon any feedback that may come your way. A popular method for requesting candid feedback is through an employee survey that allows employees to provide responses anonymously.

Creating an organization’s culture that reflects your values and promotes a workplace of respect is an ongoing endeavor. Taking these four steps will help point you in the right direction; however, it’s important to continue the initiative indefinitely to ensure a lasting effect.