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By John Henderson

Let’s face it: we are living and working in a socially and politically divisive world that can have a negative impact on a company’s culture. So what can an organization do about this in order to create and sustain a culture of respect in their workplace?

It really comes down to courtesy — being polite and aware of other’s concerns and feelings, and practicing the good manners of saying “hello,” asking “how are you?” and actually waiting for the person to respond rather than continuing to walk by them.

We foster a culture of respect by appreciating everyone for their uniqueness and intrinsic worth as a person — what they bring to the team and organization. We realize that we must create a place where people can be their authentic self at work. We show that we value and support others. And the most important thing is that we accept people for who they are and what they do, but we don’t necessarily need to agree with their opinions or values.

The last one is where many organizations fall short by allowing people’s differences to get in the way of having a productive and positive environment where people feel valued and feel that they belong.

As in real estate, where the most important things are location, location, and location, the things that are most important to creating a respectful workplace are communication, communication, and communication. We must lead by example and communicate openly and constructively.

We must also have embedded in our culture the willingness to effectively address disrespectful behavior, not turn and walk away from it. When communicating, make sure it is clear, specific, and understood by the recipient by asking them to repeat back what they heard and what you agree upon. Most importantly, remember that our non-verbal communication is 70% of what is conveyed.

To foster a culture of respect does not have to be a difficult undertaking. Ensuring that the values and norms of the organization are understood by all is the first step, but living them is the next step that needs to be part of everyday life in your organization.


John Henderson is director of Learning and Development at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast. This article first appeared on the EANE blog; eane.org