When your boss "informs" you on Friday that he expects you to come in on Saturday to do a project he just assigned you five minutes ago, you feel like he doesn't respect you. When you work hard on a presentation, and then your boss announces that she'll present it to senior management -- with her name on it -- you feel like she doesn't respect you. When you hear all year about how valued you are, and how great you are and then get a one percent raise and a "meets expectations" performance review, you feel that your boss doesn't respect you. It's an extremely common thread in the workplace.
And, in fact, a recent Harvard Business Review survey found that 54 percent reported that their bosses don't respect them. The survey looked at people across a wide range of industries and at a variety of levels, which means this problem isn't unique to one industry.
Respondents who felt that their bosses respected them were far better off than their disrespected colleagues. HBR writes:
Those that get respect from their leaders reported 56% better health and well-being, 1.72 times more trust and safety, 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs, 92% greater focus and prioritization, and 1.26 times more meaning and significance. Those that feel respected by their leaders were also 1.1 times more likely to stay with their organizations than those that didn't.
Better health, trusted the company more, had greater focus -- these are things companies strive for. How much money do companies spend on "wellness programs" and doing "team building exercises" when a little bit of respect from the boss could increase these things dramatically? The priority is off.
For instance, earlier this year the New York Times highlighted scheduling software used by Starbucks and others that were designed to maximize profit by treating employees like commodities. This utter lack of respect for employees undoubtedly hurt their bottom line, if this survey is to be believed. To their credit, Starbucks did make modifications to their scheduling after their methods came to light, but only after they were criticized. So, it wasn't so much out of respect for their employees, but out of the fear that bad press brings.
It's actually pretty easy to show respect to your employees, and it allows you to avoid bad press in the first place. Here's how.
1. Remember your employees are human. They have families, friends, and lives outside of work. They also have mortgages, car payments, and need correct change to send with their children for that school field trip. They get sick, and their parents die, and they sometimes need time off.
2. Your business may be your baby, but it's just a job to your employees. This happens often in start-ups, where this is the dream of the founder. He expects that everyone should be willing to work around the clock, just like he is. And, if you make your compensation structure correctly, you may find people who are willing to do that. But, at the end of the day, it's just a job to your employees and they can find another one. The ones that can most easily find a new one? Your best employees. Treat them right and they are far more likely to stay on.
3. Follow the laws. Employment law in the U.S. generally favors the employer over the employee (California is a notable exception). While some of the laws can be quite complex, some things can be straight forward. Every non-exempt employee must be paid for every hour worked. Working off the clock is always illegal for a non-exempt employee. Overtime is required for any work over 40 hours (and in some jurisdictions, over 8 hours in a day). An exempt employee always gets full salary, even if she needs to go to a doctor's appointment at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. A woman that just had a new baby is eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave (if you have more than 50 employees). A man? Also eligible for 12 weeks of bonding time. You can't punish these people for taking that time either.
4. Be nice. Yep. Just be nice. Ask about their weekends, but not in a prying manner. Bring in bagels from time to time. Say thank you when they do something, even though it's their job to do so. Don't steal credit. Praise your employees and your superiors will actually think more highly of you. It's a win-win for you.
5. Deal with bad employees quickly. It's actually not nice to ignore problems. If you have an employee who bullies others, fire that employee. If you have an employee who slacks off and pushes work onto co-workers, have a sit down with that employee and put her on a 90-day performance improvement plan. No improvement means she hits the pavement. Your good employees want to work in an environment where good work is rewarded and bad behavior is condemned.