Allen Woo discusses how to encourage mutual respect in the workplace

A survey conducted a couple of years ago by Georgetown University looked to determine how employees ranked leadership traits. The top attribute was not clear communication, strong work ethic, or empathy, important as they were – at the top was respect. Allen Woo, a personnel management and individual growth expert, shares some steps that can be taken in the workplace to foster mutual respect.

A company that doesn’t foster mutual respect will only ask for more employees. Your human resources team will be busy managing a constant flow of unhappy departures and new hires if they don’t show appreciation. Your brand’s reputation will be seriously damaged if word spreads quickly.

Woo says, “As with all business priorities, instilling the shared value of respect begins at the top.” Leaders must demonstrate respect across the organization. It is important to clarify what respect means for your employees. There are steps you can take to create a respectful environment.

Show others how it feels to be positive and thank them for their hard work. This will encourage others to follow your example and offer praise and encouragement.

Woo says that constructive criticism is sometimes necessary for growth and improvement. However, too much can lead to depression. “You should be aware of any signs that your leadership style is micromanaging,” he adds. “Micromanagers are silently indicating that they don’t trust their employees, despite the fact they may mean well.

With the rise of remote work, your opportunities to talk to employees will be more limited, so take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you. Focus on employee praise in virtual meetings and use online communication channels to send positive messages from time to time.

It’s better to hire someone with obvious soft skills (emotional intelligence, self-control, adaptability) than a candidate with superior qualifications who run roughshod over others. Maintaining respect in the workplace becomes exponentially easier if you filter out selfish and immature people early on.

Any commitment to mutual respect should be reinforced primarily through thousands of small daily interactions. However, you will also want to set aside time and resources for soft skills development throughout the year, whether in the form of seminars or informal book studies. Don’t wait for problems to arise fueled by biases, hasty assumptions, or miscommunication.

Be on the lookout for cliques forming in your workplace. When employees begin to separate based on a job description, seniority, or any other criteria, it can quickly lead to an erosion of trust. If a rift develops between two well-established friendship groups, it will be even more difficult to unravel its destructive effects.

If that suits your environment, consider having short, informal morning meetings to improve communication. “Smart use of project management software can also help employees better understand how each team member contributes to a common goal. Anything you can do to break down silos will help foster mutual respect,” Woo explains.

Another proven mechanism to promote employee bonding between workgroups is to organize occasional activities for your team outside of normal working hours. These events work best when they are fun and optional. Whether it’s a meal, a sporting event, or a game night, the idea is to provide opportunities for interaction that people actually want to attend.

Transparency is key to cultivating a culture of respect. It is difficult to respect someone who keeps too many secrets. The same dynamic can be found at the macro level of the workplace. You can earn respect by being open and transparent.

You may be amazed at the results of putting respect first as a business value. Your team will grow stronger and perform better. Respected employees are more likely than others to show respect and to share it with others.