Leadership is about relationships. And the cornerstone of just about every relationship is respect. When employees feel respected, they are more engaged, motivated, and productive. But many managers struggle to convey their respect to team members. Consequently, colleagues often experience a sense of being undervalued, disconnected, or even inferior. It is difficult to envision individuals who harbor such sentiments being able to their best work ever.
In this article, we will outline how to make employees feel respected through five actions leaders can take to build a respectful work environment.
The first action leaders can take to make employees feel respected is to check-in often. By staying in contact with your team members on a regular basis, you show that you value their work and progress. That’s why regularly checking in with team members through one-on-one meetings is essential for making them feel respected. During these check-ins, ask about their work progress and if they need any resources or support. But beyond just work-related checking in, this is a time to check in with them on a deeper level as well. Show genuine interest in their personal lives and let them choose how much they want to share. They may not answer right away, as it takes time to grow comfortable with sharing personal information at work. But inquiring about it still demonstrates that you care about them as individuals and not just as employees.
By maintaining open lines of communication and regularly checking in, you create a supportive and respectful environment where employees feel heard and valued.
Ask for Input
The second action leaders can take to make employees feel respected is to ask for input. Employees involved in the decision-making process feel like their perspective and knowledge is respected. You don’t need to agree to follow every decision they make, and you don’t even need to let them make the decision. But you should absolutely seek out their input before you decide. By asking for their input, you show respect for their expertise and that you value their opinions. And you recognize that others may have different perspectives and access to information that you may not have. Even if their input is not ultimately followed, it is crucial to explain the reasoning behind the decision. In fact, asking for input helps you better explain to employees why a decision was made that they may disagree with, while still helping employees understand that their input was considered and respected.
By actively seeking input from your team members, you foster a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect.
The third action leaders can take to make employees feel respected is to demonstrate trust. Trust is a fundamental aspect of creating a respectful work environment. And the research on how trust develops suggests that trust isn’t given or earned, it’s built over time through a reciprocal process. When people feel trusted, they’re more likely to respond with trustworthy behavior. And in a work-context, this means leaders ought to go first by demonstrating they trust their employees. This often takes the form of giving employees more autonomy. Set clear standards and expectations but allow them to find the best way to meet them. By giving autonomy, you show that you trust your employees’ abilities and judgment.
However, it is important to balance autonomy with accountability. While giving employees the freedom to work in their own way, ensure that they are still accountable to the team and the organization’s goals. This balance between trust and accountability creates a respectful and empowering work environment.
The fourth action leaders can take to make employees feel respected is to referee conflicts. Conflicts within a team can be detrimental to a respectful work environment, but they can also be hugely beneficial. It just depends on the type of conflict and how it is handled. Personal conflicts need to be resolved and eliminated quickly. But task-focused conflicts can benefit the team by making ideas stronger and making final decisions better. As a leader, this means referring task-focused conflicts to ensure they stay productive. Establish ground rules for conflicts, such as starting with positive feedback before addressing disagreements. This helps create a safe space for open and productive discussions. Additionally, teach your team members how to have productive conflicts that lead to better ideas and solutions.
By encouraging task-focused conflict and working to find productive resolutions, you foster a culture of respect and continuous improvement.
Give Fair Feedback
The final action leaders can take to make employees feel respected is to give fair feedback. Providing direct and fair feedback is essential for helping employees improve and grow. When giving feedback, focus on both the positive aspects and areas for improvement. By acknowledging their strengths and offering constructive criticism, you show that you value their efforts and are invested in their professional development. Where many leaders go wrong is in spending too much time on constructive criticism and not enough time on positive elements of one’s performance. That’s not fair. Fair feedback ensures that the conversation is proportionate to the overall performance of the employee. If their work is 90 percent positive and 10 percent needing improvement, then the conversation should be 90 percent positive. This not only helps the constructive criticism be better received, but it also helps the employees know their contribution is valued.
By giving fair feedback, employees not only grow faster but they grow in their feeling of being respected.
Creating a respectful work environment requires consistent effort and commitment from leaders. By regularly checking in with team members, involving them in decision-making processes, demonstrating trust, refereeing conflicts, and giving fair feedback, you can make employees feel respected and valued. Remember, a respectful work environment leads to higher employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity—in other words, employees who feel respected are employees able to do their best work ever.
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