All Articles Leadership Inspiration Engaging employees with RESPECT

Engaging employees with RESPECT

3 min read


This post is by Paul Marciano, author of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT.” Follow him on Twitter @drpaulmarciano.

Growing up, my parents taught me to respect my elders, teachers, and those in uniform e.g., police officers, fire fighters, military personnel and clergy. As I got older, I also learned the importance of respecting those for whom I worked — even when I disagreed with them or felt treated unfairly. You respected the boss because he was the boss, as you respected your parents because they were your parents. You didn’t have to like it but I think that it achieved some sort of order in the world.

Perhaps I’m just getting older but it seems to me that our world is in a crisis of disrespect. In fact, the term dissed has even become part of our vernacular and we regularly hear about gang members killing one another for having been disrespected. School children bully one another, and politicians cannot have a civil dialogue.

As an organizational psychologist, I’ve seen the critical role that respect plays in the workplace. In fact, it has become clear to me that respect is the lynchpin of employee engagement. Despite 40 years of research on employee motivation, organizations continue to waste resources developing, administering and executing traditional reward and recognition programs that actually reduce motivation. Promotions, trips and perks lead to temporary increases in performance, not enduring changes in commitment and continuous improvement. Corporate vitality depends on creating a culture that leads to committed, loyal, and engaged employees, and “carrot and stick” approaches just won’t get you there.

Here’s what does work: showing employees respect. Employee engagement depends upon the extent to which individuals respect their organization and its leadership, and feel respected.

There are seven critical ways in which  managers can show respect to their employees.

  • Recognition: Thanking employees and acknowledging their contributions on a daily basis.
  • Empowerment: Providing employees with the tools, resources, training, and information they need to be successful.
  • Supportive feedback: Giving ongoing performance feedback — both positive and corrective.
  • Partnering: Fostering a collaborative working environment.
  • Expectation setting: Establishing clear performance goals and holding employees accountable.
  • Consideration: Demonstrating thoughtfulness, empathy, and kindness.
  • Trust: Demonstrating faith and belief in their employees’ skills, abilities, and decisions.

This is an actionable philosophy that speaks to how employees and managers should treat one another on a regular basis. If your goal is to create highly engaged and dedicated employees, then spend some part of everyday showing your employees that you respect them. Think about the boss to whom you were the most dedicated and would work the hardest. Did you respect her? I thought so.

Image credit, joebelanger, via