Respect, An Essential Employee Wellness Strategy

By James Malone

Many different terms describe employees, staff, workers – even the word employee conjures up an abstracted view of what we are; people. As people, we have certain needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly puts love/belonging and esteem right up there. So why are we so bad at showing appreciation, respect and recognition and why should this be part of an overarching employee wellness strategy.

If you ask most people about work and what they expect from their employer and co-workers, they will commonly list a desire to be treated with dignity and with respect.

Respect is defined as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” When we feel admiration for an individual, we believe that the person is worthy of our respect because of the good qualities and capabilities that they bring to the workplace. Too often though we let the moment pass and an opportunity to connect is missed.

Commonly, we use body language and nonverbal means to judge respect. We also interpret the way in which our company, our bosses, and our co-workers treat us. This can be as simple and nuanced as how new rules and policies are introduced, or how employees are compensated, recognized and rewarded. This can even be as simple as the way we say or do not say “thank you”.

Remember, people won’t respect someone if they don’t feel respected themselves. You need to show respect before you can expect anything in return.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Respect and recognition can so easily be done as part of an employee wellness strategy, so easy in fact we generally don’t. Here are a few ways in which, you and your organization can promote respect. These ideas will also help you avoid inadvertent disrespect too.


  1. You don’t nearly praise enough. Double or triple your efforts. Encourage praise and recognition from employer to employee and employee to employee. As a manager, it is essential to make employees aware of how you feel about them and what you value. It’s not enough to simply think it.
  2. The Golden Rule; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The alternative to the Golden Rule is the Platinum Rule; “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” This switches the mindset to consider what the other person may in fact like, and not what you would like. A practical application of this is simply asking employees, what they would like in X, rather than hiring a consultant to second guess you and your employees.
  3. Encourage the expression of opinions and ideas. This done right, can be a very powerful tool. Do not however, simply pay lip service, this will do more damage than no action at all. Ask for feedback but also give feedback on the actions taken and include participants in any outcomes. An open office policy is fantastic if the manager is friendly and receptive, otherwise this is simply counterproductive.
  4. Be aware of the praise to criticism ratio at work; five positive comments for every negative one. Lower performing teams in a study had three negative comments for every positive one. Where do you stand? Sometimes a little negative feedback is warranted and even productive, but gauge your overall office language and act accordingly with teams, managers and management.
  5. Listen to others. The loudest voice in the room is not always the voice of reason and creativity. Listen for the little unheard voices, these can sometimes offer the greatest wisdom and experience. Encourage everyone to participate.
  6. Use people’s ideas to change the workplace. Elicit feedback and let employees know you listened and acted on their ideas. Empower and encourage the individuals to implement or help in executing these ideas. There is no greater motivator than an individual championing their own idea.

Develop A Culture Of Respect

  1. Respect people and treat them with kindness and courtesy.
  2. No matter the race, religion, gender, size, age, or origin, treat everyone equally. This seems self explanatory but considering the diversity in organizations today, not enough is done to bring minorities into the fold. Treating people differently can be considered harassment and create a hostile working environment. Do you understand your company’s diversity?
  3. Identify and remove personal insults, name calling, disparaging comments or personal put downs. Closely examine how managers communicate and address their employees.
  4. Foster a culture of openness. Offer constructive criticism but do not nit-pick, belittle, ridicule, demean or patronize. What can start out as seemingly trivial comments can over time develop into bullying.
  5. Say thank you at every chance you get, it’s such a simple thing, it’s free and most importantly, it will make both parties feel good.

And if you think you’re doing enough, caution. Today’s employees expect employers to show appreciation for their efforts, real appreciate, not just financial. What worked as financial incentives in the past simply doesn’t cut it with a modern workforce. Investopedia interestingly states;

“This drastic shift in the workforce requires companies to change how they manage and reward talent. The policies and incentives that worked for past generations are no longer effective, and companies that fail to adapt may find themselves facing a shortage of talented and motivated workers.”

And above all, thank you for reading and sharing this post. What are your views on respect and do employers really get it? If health and happiness is not a prominent employee wellness strategy at your company, then let’s talk and see what we can do together. 

By James Malone

Looking to start a wellness challenge? Contact us, and get your employees motivated and engaged in health.

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