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  • Writer's pictureRhonda Spencer

The Importance of Respect

by Rhonda Norris-Spencer, MBA

Respect, what’s the big deal?

Do you as a leader want engaged employees? (part 1)

Have you ever felt disrespected? Did that make you angry? How does that emotion develop, and what are the effects of that development? And what strategies do you use to manage the intense emotion that happens when you are disrespected?

When a person feels respected, they feel valued. This value boosts self-esteem, drives them to work more diligently, and reciprocates the display of respect. In addition, when employees feel respected, they are engaged at work. Is this not the goal of employers to have a team of engaged employees?

What creates disrespect? Some examples of disrespectful behavior include communication by both verbal and nonverbal disrespect. In addition, people can experience disrespect through actions such as dismissive behavior, acts of aggression, and passive-aggressive behaviors. Finally, there can be disrespect for a person’s race, gender, or generational division. There is no circumstance where showing disrespect is okay.

Communication is key to enhancing employee engagement. When communication has become fractured, then it is easy for individuals to feel disrespected. Once this event happens, it is hard to repair that communication, not impossible. Still, it will take recognition of the situation and a strategic plan to improve the fracture, bring communication back to positive work culture, and bring the person back to full employee engagement.

Some ways that disrespect gets shown through communication is by:



  1. Laughing or mocking

  1. Inappropriate staring

2. Angry outbursts

2. Making faces

3. Constantly interrupting

3. Sighing

4. Raising your voice

4. Eye-rolling

5. Shouting/Screaming/Swearing

5. Glaring

6. Name-calling/belittling

6. Invading personal space (dominatingly)

7. Making threats

7. Displaying rude gestures

8. Looking everywhere else instead at the person talking to you

The actions of showing disrespect create an environment where people do not feel emotionally or, in some cases, physically safe. Once that situation occurs, people will withdraw, productivity will go down, and they will start speaking negatively about the workplace and creating a disgruntled environment. A disgruntled environment leads to gossip, workplace conflicts, discouraged morale, and employee disengagement leading to a loss in revenue, poor customer service, and high turnover.

This article focuses on verbal and nonverbal communication because of the depth of information. Actions of showing disrespect will be in the following article. Verbal and nonverbal communication can directly link to physical and passive-aggressive behaviors. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how these actions impact the work culture environment and the individual personally, leading to their quality of life.

What will make a difference?

Management makes or breaks a company. Leadership sets the work environment. If one of the managers behaves disrespectfully, the employees will develop an attitude where they do not care and are only there for the paycheck. For example, if an employee comes to a manager to discuss an inappropriate situation or event or a problem with a customer and the manager checks their cell phone, texts someone or sighs, rolls their eyes, or consistently interrupts. The employee trying to resolve the situation will feel disrespected, not valued, and keep to themselves. When negative verbal or nonverbal communication happens, the interaction will create a disgruntled employee who will start engaging in workplace negativity, creating a toxic environment. The manager here really holds the blame for creating the negative workplace environment by the actions that they displayed, both verbal and nonverbal, to the employee looking for help.

What can managers do to ensure employee engagement and create a productive work culture? There are many options based on the size of the company. One of the first options would be to sit with the human resource manager, discuss what they see, and listen to their opinion. Another would be to get all the managers together and develop options to change the work culture.

The leadership could develop a shadow board. Shadow boards create environments that bridge the communication gap between employees, management, and generational gaps that may exist. The shadow board would address the issues collectively and then present those ideas to the leadership, which should engage in open, healthy conversations leading to action and implementation.

Managers could also hire a consultant to come in and administer surveys to keep the employee’s responses anonymous, giving the employees a safe environment to respond honestly. For example, an employee who fears repercussions will not provide an honest answer to protect themselves from having to engage in a negative environment. The consultant then could work beside the management team to develop an innovative strategic plan to address employee engagement and develop strategies to create a positive work environment.

Have you assessed your work culture environment as a leader in your organization? Do you openly listen without distraction and show respect to all employees no matter their role? All employees play a vital role in the workplace. They would not be in a position to fill if they did not. When people feel valued, they will perform with enthusiasm and be engaged employees that provide productivity and growth for your business.

People need to feel that they are of value. Once an employee feels valued, then they will become more engaged and positive, and turnover for the company will decrease.

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