In my experience, most Americans not only find little joy in their work – they actually suffer emotionally, psychologically, and physically because of it.
Sad, but true.
Although I believe that individuals are ultimately responsible for their own happiness, work experiences can contribute significantly to one’s emotional well-being. (I also believe that human beings are wired to exist in a state of happiness and not misery.)
Obviously, employers who wish to maximize the productivity and overall contributions of their employees would be well-advised to become knowledgeable on this topic.
In the end, employee happiness and well-being are not only in the best interest of the individual but also lead directly to tangible benefits for the organization, e.g., increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, higher quality work, and better customer service.
Drawing on a century of research by others, I have concluded that employee engagement relates directly to employee happiness and satisfaction.
Employees who work hard and contribute to their organizations are much more likely to experience high levels of satisfaction than those who give minimum effort and take little interest in furthering the mission and vision of the organization.
In short, organizational vitality depends on an engaged and happy workforce.
While employers can’t increase employee happiness directly – nor should they try – supervisors and managers can significantly impact employee engagement.
The question then becomes how best to accomplish this. My research has led me to a very simple answer: Respect.
In both our personal and professional lives, respect is the sine qua non of engagement. Think about it. When we feel respected or gain respect for others, we become psychologically and emotionally drawn to them.
In the context of work, engagement leads to higher levels of discretionary effort, commitment, dedication, and loyalty, and, in the process, to a greater sense of work satisfaction and happiness.
Below is an exercise I call the Circle of Respect that will demonstrate the power of respect in the workplace.
Write Down a Time When YOU Respected:
1. The Organization for Which You Worked
You respected its mission, vision, goals, and objectives. You were proud to tell people where you worked.
2. Your Supervisor
You viewed him/her as someone who believed in you, supported you through coaching and training, had your back, gave you kudos when you deserved it – and a kick in the pants when you needed it!
3. Your Fellow Team Members
People were competent at their jobs, supportive of one another,pulled their weight, and spoke to one another not about one another.
4. The work that You Did
You found it meaningful and personally challenging. You were proud to tell people what you did for a living.
And, a time when you fundamentally felt respected as an individual – people listened to your ideas and concerns, you were appropriately recognized and acknowledged for your contributions, and you were fairly compensated for your efforts and results.
Take a second to review your answers. Did you ever have a job where all of the above were true? In other words, you respected your organization, supervisor, team members, and work, and felt respected simultaneously?
If so, you are probably smiling. You probably loved going to work. If you had such an experience you belong to a very small and fortunate club. For most, “work” is a four letter word.
Notice the powerful influence of respect and how it can account almost entirely for employee engagement and happiness.
While each of the above aspects of the Circle of Respect contributes to engagement, having a respectful and positive relationship with one’s supervisor is the most critical.
Fortunately, it’s also the most easily improved with training.
The RESPECT Model
The RESPECT Model is an actionable philosophy that I developed after years of research, consulting, and implementation.
The Model identifies seven key drivers that lead to an employee’s experience of being respected. They form an acronym as follows:
Being recognized and acknowledged for one’s contributions.
Receiving the resources and training needed to succeed.
3. Supportive Feedback
Receiving ongoing mentoring and coaching by a caring and competent supervisor.
Being authentically treated as a business partner and colleague regardless of job title or function.
Knowing exactly what is expected and being held accountable for achieving those goals.
Being treated thoughtfully as a fellow human being rather than as headcount.
Being trusted to do one’s job and given appropriate autonomy and decision making responsibility that reflect this trust.
Although the general principle of respect in the workplace is hardly novel, and, in fact, appears as a core value for many organizations, I find that it is exists more on paper than in reality.
The truth is that while nearly everyone agrees that creating a respectful culture matters, the idea tends to remain conceptual rather than actually applied.
How to Treat with Respect – 10 Actionable Strategies
Sadly, most people don’t consciously about treating one another with respect.
Fortunately, supervisors – and employees at all levels – can be taught simple techniques to demonstrate respect and avoid disrespectful behavior.
Below are 10 specific strategies.
1. Be considerate of others’ time; be on time for meetings.
2. Actively listen; look people in the eye.
3. Keep your promises; take responsibility when you break them.
4. Make sure others have the information they need to be successful.
5. If you have concerns, talk directly to that person, not about him or her.
6. Provide constructive feedback; encourage others.
7. Acknowledge and thank others for their help.
8. When presenting your ideas say, “I’d like to offer another point of view.”
9. Acknowledge when someone has a better idea.
10. Take an active interest in others; find out what’s important to them.
My challenge to you is to identify and immediately begin using at least one technique with at least one colleague or employee – or even friend or family member! (The technique you choose certainly does not have to come from the list above as there are many ways to show respect.).
As you begin to show more respect notice how it increases the engagement and happiness of those around you. I guarantee it.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Wanted to add something in the story, do in comment!