One of the more significant advantages of a company is the diversity of its employees. Every single one of us is different, and our differences stem primarily from where we were born, how we were raised, what we believe in, and how we choose to live our lives. While our differences may be vast, we’re united in the values we have as human beings.
The attributes that make us unique are also what enhance our experiences in the workplace and bring us together to achieve success. Yet, make no mistake: collective success can be achieved only under the right circumstances. Business leaders must lay the framework enabling their employees’ differences to work as a vessel for growth and improvement, rather than an excuse for your company to descend into chaos.
Leaders must cultivate a culture in which all employees are treated fairly, feel welcomed, and receive support. Lauren Irwin-Szostak, who is the founder and CEO of Business Processes Redefined (BPR), boils these attributes down to a single objective for leaders: prioritizing mutual respect.
Why Mutual Respect Matters
Imagine, if you will, that you’re collaborating on a project with a colleague. Differences in opinions and creative preferences between the two of you could create setbacks, but such stumbles should be relatively easy to overcome and can even end up strengthening the project. But what if one or both of you lacks respect for the other? Such tensions can build and won’t merely interfere with their work, but could also lead to damaged relationships and lower self-confidence.
To ensure that mutual respect is at the center of your business’ culture, Lauren Irwin-Szostak believes that leaders must demand that such respect be obvious in your team dynamic. Mutual respect will increase levels of positivity and productivity across your office. Business leaders and employees will be more open-minded and trusting because they’ll know they have a safety net to fall back on if needed. Decreased absenteeism and lower turnover rates will also result because employees will feel more connected to the team and organization.
How to Instill Mutual Respect in Your Team
Prioritizing mutual respect in your culture isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It depends on the needs of your employees and your organization. But there are some considerations to keep in mind when boosting respect in the workforce. Lauren Irwin-Szostak believes these three avenues are what leaders should pursue mutual respect among their employees.
Create Time for Employees to Get to Know Each Other
Disrespect often stems from ignorance. Encourage your employees to learn more about one another so they can deepen their perspectives of each other and, more importantly, their empathy towards one another. Encouraging more social events inside the office or after hours helps employees get to know one another better and build stronger relationships. A closer workforce creates a greater sense of camaraderie and accelerates trust in the workplace.
Explore Your Differences
Some types of differences between or among employees will be harder to understand and bridge. As your employees get to know one another, such differences could stir up more complex questions. It’s important to explore these questions, but organizations must do so in an open, thoughtful manner. Business leaders should educate themselves on how to navigate these difficult conversations with their teams to ensure that future interactions are respectful and well-intentioned.
Model Mutual Respect for Your Team
One study of 20,000 employees found that workers ranked respect as one of the more important qualities in a leader. If you want to build a culture of mutual respect, you must exhibit such respect to your employees. Business leaders must first challenge their own biases and world views to avoid using words or taking actions that could adversely affect their teams. They must also speak up if they notice any unacceptable behavior among their employees to demonstrate that disrespect will not be tolerated in the workplace. If you want your team to embrace and exhibit mutual respect, you must model open-mindedness and inclusivity to them so that your behavior will influence that of your employees.
Diversity can be the foundation of success, but Lauren Irwin-Szostak knows that success is not possible unless and until mutual respect becomes the foundation of your workforce and your company.