How Treating Employees with Respect Increases Retention Rates

Rachel Ludwig
Posted by in Management & Business

As a manager, employer, or boss, it’s important to remember that respect is a two-way street. We often think of respect as going in one direction: upward. Workers respect managers, who respect their higher-ups, etc. However, practicing intentional, mindful respect in the workplace is a proven method to retain good employees.

Respect comes in many forms, but as the Harvard Business Review points out, there is a difference between “earned” respect and “owed” respect. Most people are familiar with the idea of “earned” respect, a cliche often found in television and film. A character is ignored or treated as less than until they can prove themselves or show their value. Only then do they earn the respect of their elders, teammates, etc. This cliche exists for a reason–it’s only human nature to make an evaluation about someone based on their actions, not just their words. 

And, while it’s important to recognize great efforts and successes in the workplace, which can motivate your employees, it’s equally important that employers and bosses show “owed” respect to their employees. 

Owed respect refers to treating all employees as valued members of the team and isn’t based on merit, but a universal standard of professionalism. But what does owed respect look like and how can we implement it in the workplace? First, owed respect calls for us to treat all employees equally. Whether it’s paying close attention when a junior staff member contributes something to a meeting or approaching all team members with a positive attitude or responding thoughtfully to employee feedback, there are many simple ways to exhibit owed respect. 

In the short-term and long-term, these practices pay off. 

Employees who received owed respect are more likely to speak up in meetings and contribute new ideas because they see that all team members are valued equally. They also feel more secure in their position and aren’t as likely to seek new roles due to stress or feelings of isolation. It can help employees envision a long term future with a company and is often as important as monetary benefits. 

This effect is only augmented by giving earned respect to recognize employees for a job well done. If a colleague does great work on a project or makes a big sale, but they don’t receive any kind of praise, congratulations, or acknowledgement, it’s unlikely that they’ll continue to put in that strong effort to go above and beyond. They may even explore other options where their hard work will be recognized. However, when strong numbers or excellent customer feedback is properly addressed by management, employees will feel respected and be more likely to keep their talents at your company. Even consider dishing out earned respect for a past achievement–your employee might feel even more recognized that you remembered their hard work on a past project.  

This initiative is simple, free, and fast to implement at your company or workplace. As soon as tomorrow, you have the power to create a more respectful, pleasant atmosphere for your employees. 


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