Respect in Action

Valuing Your Employees: Respect in Action

This seems like such an obvious statement – of course an organization should value its employees. In fact, doesn’t that phrase appear somewhere on almost every organization’s website? Anybody who has ever had a job probably knows, however, that having the statement on printed or e-materials doesn’t mean employees actually feel like they are valued and respected. Showing true respect for an individual requires time and purposeful action; the high stress environments common to human service organizations, coupled with a chronic lack of resources, may impede the ability of an organization to make their employees feel that they are respected.

It might feel a lot like a moving target, but it turns out that making employees feel respected is critical to making them stay. According to a 2011 survey by Mercer, a global human resource, outsourcing, and consulting firm, “being treated with respect” was reported by respondents to be the most important factor in employee engagement in motivation. Especially for organizations with limited resources, having engaged and motivated staff could be the difference between growth and decline.

One of the most obvious – and often most difficult – ways to show somebody that you respect them is by keeping your commitments to them, including scheduled meetings. Nothing says “you’re just not that important to me” like cancelling meetings at the last minute or continually moving a regularly scheduled meeting, or even calling an “emergency” meeting and requiring others to cancel previous obligations so they can accommodate one person’s schedule. An “emergency” means that somebody is in crisis and needs help, a situation that generally does not require a meeting.

If you are an administrator or director, you probably have many obligations and individuals vying for your time, making it feel incredibly difficult to honor scheduled meetings with the people you supervise, especially if you have board members, community partners, or your supervisor trying to schedule a meeting at the same time.

Empathy can be very useful in this situation. How would you feel if you had a friend or acquaintance who was always at least 20 minutes late every time you met up? Or who regularly cancelled 10 minutes before you were supposed to meet? How would you feel if your supervisor did that to you? More to the point, if your supervisor treated you that way, how motivated would you be to complete tasks for them?

Not cancelling or delaying meetings can be a big cultural and behavioral shift in your organization. It’s hard to say “I’m sorry, that time doesn’t work for me” to somebody you believe is in a position of power over you. For your own sanity, and the sanity of your coworkers, you should give it a shot. Honoring previously scheduled meetings with everybody, regardless of their position, not only demonstrates kindness and respect, but it is also the ethical thing to do.

If you treat every employee, board member, service user, and partner, regardless of their position, with the same level of respect and consideration, your employees will be happier, and so will you.

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