Demonstrating mutual respect in the workplace

Demonstrating mutual respect in the workplace Share

This month we’ve been looking at mutual respect as one of the core British Values, and this week we’re focussing on how to show respect for one another specifically in the workplace.

Respecting colleagues is not only important on an individual, personal level, but it has been shown that more respectful teams are actually more productive and happier in general, so embedding respect and positivity throughout your organisation actually brings business benefits too. So what steps can you take at work to be more respectful, inclusive and part of a more productive team?

Common ground

People don’t always see eye-to-eye, and there are many things colleagues might disagree over at work. However, it’s important that your employees understand that, while discussion is important, you must be respectful, professional and pleasant while at work.

Always treat people the way you want to be treated—with respect. Like you, your co-workers have rights, opinions, wishes, experience, and competence. They also make mistakes, which are simply lessons to be learned. They have similar concerns and insecurities and share the common goal of wanting to perform their jobs successfully.

How to show respect as a team player

There are many ways that you and your colleagues can demonstrate mutual respect in the workplace:

  • Interact with all your colleagues with courtesy, politeness, and kindness. Even co-workers who don’t particularly like each other can be civil and respectful, from a simple “Good morning” to including them in the tea round. Treat people the same no matter their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, size, age, ability, marital status or country of origin.
  • Encourage co-workers to express opinions and ideas freely and fairly, and ensure they are listened to. Positive communication in all forms is vital to showing mutual respect.
  • Practice constructive criticism This might take a bit of policing, but is a very good habit to get into, especially in team meetings. Try to avoid judging at all costs.
  • Listen to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint. Never speak over or interrupt another person.
  • Be aware of your body language, the tone of voice, and your demeanour and expression in all of your interactions at work. People hear what you’re really saying through your non-verbal communication in addition to listening to your words.
  • Improve your ability to interact with co-workers using your emotional intelligence. This will help you to relate with empathy and better understand those with whom you work.
  • Include all co-workers in meetings, discussions, training, and events. While not every person can or wants to participate in every activity, try not to marginalise, exclude or leave out any one person. Provide an equal opportunity to participate in committees, projects or social events. Solicit volunteers from people with differing opinions and try to involve everyone.
How to show respect as a team leader

While the above can be performed by anyone with any level of seniority within an organisation, team leaders or managers have a greater responsibility to ensure mutual respect within their teams.

  1. Lead by example

When there’s resentment or a lack of respect between two leaders, or between a leader and a team member, it becomes very obvious very quickly to everyone who has to witness it. On the flip side, mutual respect is also plain as day.

Leaders set the tone for their teams, and subsequently for their organisations, so it’s your duty to strive to be respectful and inclusive at all times.

  1. Swiftly shut down disrespectful behaviour

People can disrespect each other intentionally and unintentionally, but if this behaviour occurs regularly it’s typically because there’s no consequence. Bad behaviour should, where possible, be shut down immediately, otherwise, left undealt with, it can quickly poison an organisation’s culture and reduce employee morale.

When a leader calls out a colleague or team member for inappropriate or malicious behaviour it makes it abundantly clear that 1) employee wellbeing and psychological safety are held in high regard, and 2) disrespectful behaviour won’t be tolerated.

This may be a rare occurrence in most organisations, but when difficult situations arise, a timely conversation with the offender is the best approach.

  1. Recognise respectful employees

Public recognition can go a long way towards cultivating an atmosphere of respect across your organisation. Employees who treat others with respect and dignity, who go out of their way to be fair and understanding, can be celebrated for these traits at team meetings or more formal awards ceremonies.

This recognition of respect in the workplace gives colleagues a standard to emulate in their everyday interactions with one other.