In a world obsessed with reputations, we seem to have forgotten one of the most powerful enablers of good reputations.

We hear about the importance of trust, about the need for integrity and ethical behaviour.

What we don’t hear enough about is the need to give people respect.

A recent report by Maitland, one of Europe’s leading financial and corporate communications consultancies, found that 83 of the FTSE 100 businesses in the UK declared a set of values on their website or in their annual report. The most commonly expressed values were integrity, respect and innovation.

So leaders acknowledge that respect is a crucial attribute, but do they really give it, consistently, especially to their employees?

Recent research among 1800 managers and 2,200 employees in the UK, by online polling company YouGov, identified that 66 per cent of managers and 65 per cent of employees regarded making employees feel important and appreciated as the top attribute of high performing managers. This was by some way ahead of all other attributes.

The research was done for me for my new book, People with Purpose, which examines how managers can create super performance from their teams by creating a shared sense of purpose, commonly held values and aligned and stretching goals.

However, while managers and employees both know that being respected is important, all too often we see the exact opposite taking place. Managers either show disrespect to their employees, or allow employees to show disrespect to each other.

This can have devastating consequences.

“Employees are less creative when they feel disrespected, and many get fed up and leave. About half deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work. And incivility damages customer relationships. Our research shows that people are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude, whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees. Witnessing just a single unpleasant interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization, and even the brand.”

Christine says that she and her research team have interviewed employees, managers, human resource (HR) executives, presidents and CEOs: ‘We know two things for certain: incivility is expensive, and few organizations recognize or take action to curtail it.’

So, no surprise there then.

Well, yes, actually.

If both managers and employees regard respectfulness as the most important attribute in a manager, why is there still such a large gap in perceptions about being respected at work? In the YouGov survey, 73 per cent of managers felt they made their employees feel respected at work (a curious 4 per cent admitted they did little to respect their employees). However, only 40 per cent of employees said their bosses regularly made them feel respected.


That is 60 per cent of employees feeling undervalued and underappreciated, a lot of the time. Imagine the level of negative neurotoxins at work in their brains!

What effect would greater feelings of respect have on employee willingness to give of their discretionary effort?

The YouGov research shows that if managers could move their performance here from poor to good (not outstanding, just good) the payback would be a 36 per cent jump in discretionary effort, according to the employees we surveyed.

A 36 per cent improvement in productivity, by simply showing more respect! Imagine the impact of that on productivity, costs, innovation, customer satisfaction, profitability?

As Christine Porath says: “Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behaviour by a leader. Respect also had a clear impact on engagement. The more leaders give respect, the higher the level of employee engagement: people who said leaders treated them with respect were 55 per cent more engaged.”

Whether you lead a major organization or a small team, my focus has been on trying to understand what you need to do to bring out the very best in other people. After five years of research, I have now interviewed more than 120 CEOs, surveyed 3,000 managers and 6,000 employees, and read just about every book there is on leadership and communication.

I am convinced that giving respect is a crucial element in building engaged employees, and winning and keeping loyal customers.

Instead of focusing on how to get a good reputation, focus on how to ensure every person on your team gives respect to each other and everyone else they deal with.