R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the Key to the Future of Work

With a bow to Aretha Franklin, our focus this week is on the central role that Respect will play in the future of work.

I have emphasized the importance of Wellness and Wellbeing in the workplace over the last several newsletter issues, largely because my “Talking About Tomorrow” members have been actively exploring the topic in our recent monthly conference calls [links to those articles are here (Part One), and here (Part Two), and here (Part Three)].

Our conversation earlier this month brought that focus to a very personal level as we shared our own tips and techniques for coping with the emergence of what increasingly feels like a 24×7 work week.

We began the March conversation by visiting with Rebecca Scott of Sodexo, who compiled and edited Sodexo’s recent Workplace Trends 2014 report. Rebecca spoke with us about one section of the report, written by David W. Ballard (“Preventing Information Overload in The Always-On Workplace”), that cited a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association. Among other data points, the survey highlighted how often workers check work-related emails and voice messages at home and on nights and weekends  – a habit that clearly detracts from wellbeing and work-life balance.

I came away from that conversation with a very important insight:

The missing ingredient in far too many workplaces is Respect – including respect for individual differences in workstyles, talents, and personal preferences.

Most of you are well aware of the recent Gallup study showing that only about 30% of the U.S. workforce is actively engaged with work today (“The State of the American Workplace” – downloadable for free at  http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/163007/state-american-workplace.aspx).

The Gallup study also found that the ratio of actively disengaged to engaged workers is about 2 to 1 – meaning that close to 70% of U.S. workers are performing well below their full potential (and some of them are so angry that they are actively sabotaging their own organizations).

I am convinced that a strong shift to organizational cultures that recognize and respect individual skills, talents, and personal circumstances would not only reverse this discouraging reality, but would dramatically enhance organizational effectiveness, competitiveness, talent attraction/retention, and productivity, to say nothing of increasing human health and happiness.

Recognition of individual circumstances, and respect for personal needs, has been a personal “cause” of mine ever since one of my early supervisors informed me late on Friday afternoon that he needed – and expected – me to spend the entire weekend working on a major proposal that he had already committed to sending to a prospective client on Monday morning.

The fact that I had a wife and two small children who were looking forward to a weekend outing we had planned several weeks earlier made absolutely no difference to my boss. And as a relatively new employee at an “up or out” consulting firm I unfortunately felt powerless to object (understandable at the time, but in hindsight a sad mistake and a life lesson).

That experience was many years ago, but I have never forgotten it. That’s one reason why I recently became deeply involved in the formation of a new global community – and emerging movement – called Great Work Cultures.

At this pGreat Work Cultures Logooint, we have almost one hundred Champions actively collaborating to raise what we intend to be a very Big Tent (we are just a couple of months old, our website has just gone public, and we are still sorting out our organizational structure and priorities, to say nothing of strategies for recruiting thousands of additional champions).

We have a very ambitious goal of generating a broad grass roots movement that will enable thousands of individuals and organizations to share ideas and experiences, and to form a very loud chorus of voices calling for a new kind of work culture built on a foundation of respect for individuals and individual differences.

Our mission is straightforward:

We are collaborating to construct a big tent that welcomes a broad diversity of work culture best practices and leaders ….. the big tent mission:

GWC_Respect-Empower Bug-RGB_hi-resMoving from Command and Control to Respect and Empower – Creating a new norm of workplace cultures that optimize worker effectiveness and human happiness

If you share our values and believe in that mission, I encourage you to visit the site and sign up to become part of the movement.

 “Talking About Tomorrow” is a program that brings thought leaders and practitioners together once a month for open conversations about the issues and ideas driving the future of work. If you are interested in joining the group (for a small annual fee), please contact me directly at jim@thefutureofwork.net.

1 reply
  1. Larry Scheerer
    Larry Scheerer says:

    Interesting topic and thank you for teeing it up.
    Respect for people is one of the core values of my company and I am gratified that it is. However we live in a time when the weight of political correctness impinges on straight talk and clear thinking so when we discuss what should be a forthright topic of “respect” we need to peel the onion a bit.
    We have probably all seen misguided interpretation of “respect” applied in these ways-
    • Treating everyone equally – a slippery slope that can result in bestowing responsibilities based on ‘fairness’ versus qualification. Being overly concerned with equal distribution of responsibilities and authority results in wrong people in the wrong roles. That’s a fundamental cause of dysfunction in teams in which leaders are selected based on bandwidth versus skills.
    • Misplaced deference for low performers who frustrate co-workers and obstruct the performance of the team. Respect also means respecting the hard work and commitment of the team – those performing at a high level. They want leaders with high standards who bring winners to the team, not leaders who drag their feet in dealing with issues and deadwood.
    This gets to one of the foremost obstacles to the “E” word – Empowerment. The right formula is simple, hire and retain good people. Communicate thoroughly, clearly and often with free flow of feedback so everyone understands the business situation, the goals, challenges, strategy and why their part in the plan is critical. Finally, leadership must demonstrate trust and confidence; employees know what we want to achieve so leadership will support their situational leadership and decision making as the people closest to the customers (internal and external)and the issues. This environment encourages dialogue about issues and solutions, including personal situations for which accommodation can often be made because we have mutual trust and respect.
    Regarding trust as a necessary foundation for respect, too many people in manager roles simply have a very difficult time bestowing trust. If we look upstream in that line of thinking, we may find these same people aren’t entirely confident in their role, may not be forthright about enforcing standards of high performance and therefore are apprehensive about bestowing trust. They may feel that confronting situations in which a person is in the wrong role or having performance issues risks violating the core value of Respect – the opposite is true. The ultimate respect is speaking the truth and having a genuine interest in a successful outcome. Sometimes that means ending the current role, getting to one that is a better match for that person’s skills and interest or addressing wrong behavior.
    When we have this more positive, forthright and trusting culture, we have far less stress and that links directly to high performance and better health. To get to this culture, we have to have straight talk and for many in this fuzzy thinking age that has risk.

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