A respectful work environment is an effective work environment. Employees who feel respected by their supervisors and co-workers will be more productive, be more willing to volunteer to handle new projects, share ideas more openly and even play hookie less frequently. To experience these business-building benefits and produce a workplace full of contented and pleasant employees, focus on raising the levels of respect in your workplace.
Update respect-related policies. Dust the cobwebs off your employee handbook, and revisit any section that pertains to respect -- including policies regarding hazing, sexual harassment or diversity. Decide whether they are adequately detailed and enforceable. If you find that yours could use some improvement, revise them, adding specific examples of what constitutes violations. If you don’t already have a system of consequences for policy violation and a means by which employees can report violations, get to work and add them. Once you have modified the policies, roll them out to the staff publicly and make sure everyone knows what's up.
Create improvement plans for employees who knowingly or unknowingly violate respect-related expectations. If you have a worker who regularly tells culturally insensitive jokes, or a worker who is constantly commenting on others’ physical appearances, let them know they are part of the problem. Sit down with these respect-lacking employees individually and create a detailed plan of improvement for each, complete with consequences for failure to stop the inappropriate actions. Follow up monthly until they are appropriately respectful to their workmates.
Share with staff. Get everyone to board the train of respect by holding meetings that focus on the topic. Begin the meetings by explaining the value of respectful interactions. Encourage employees to be active by incorporating sharing activities. For example, ask each employee to write down an instance in which she felt she wasn’t respected and place these instances in a hat. Read them aloud to allow for anonymous sharing and reflection. For optimal success, all supervisors and management should attend each meeting; if these important workplace figures skip these sit-downs, it will send the message that this initiative isn’t actually that important.
Develop a workplace motto to make all employees feel like members of the same team. Arrange a time for all employees to sit down and brainstorm -- perhaps even providing some munchies to fuel creativity. Once workers have decided upon a motto, get creative, making posters, workplace decorations and maybe even t-shirts that feature the selected slogan. The Maine Department of Transportation successfully engaged employees, having them craft “crew credos” as part of a Workplace Respect Project that aimed to increase workplace respect and cooperation.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.