Developing Your Talent

For Every Action There is a Reaction

By Steve Harrison on May 8, 2013

Imagine your organization if everyone was guided by the mission of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Every life has equal value. Respect is one way to demonstrate another person has value. And respect could be defined as consideration for other people’s privacy, physical space, belongings, time, viewpoints, philosophies, physical ability and beliefs. Treating employees with respect positively impacts motivation and loyalty, and has a reinforcing “butterfly” effect that permeates the culture. One considerate action can produce a small positive change in one place that can show up somewhere else.

Here are a few ways leaders can demonstrate respect in the workplace:

  • Encourage questioning. Surrounding yourself with sycophants won’t inspire innovation or vision. Demonstrate real interest in hearing employees’ opinions and ideas. In order to realize our potential, we must accept – and even welcome – intellectual challenge.
  • Express appreciation. Small, unexpected tokens of thanks such as a Starbucks coffee or a favorite book are decencies that surprise and delight. Offer these as spontaneous demonstrations of appreciation rather than as rewards for specific jobs.
  • Show concern. It doesn’t take much time or money to send a greeting card or personal note to an employee recognizing a job well done, or who has experienced a serious illness, accident, bereavement or other significant event. It’s a small decency that’s long remembered.
  • Be considerate of others’ time. Start and end meetings on time. If you have an appointment with an individual – be it a vendor, customer or co-worker – arrive on time. Punctuality is a measure of respect. If you’re running late, take a moment to notify your appointment and apologize.
  • Build an inclusive culture. Respect diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives by embracing a global perspective. Cultural awareness begins with self-awareness. Understand your own culture and acknowledge the value of other cultural histories, customs and traditions.


Steve Harrison is a long-time management and corporate culture innovator. He is the author of “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Can Build Great Companies.” This is the third in an eight-part series from Steve addressing a philosophy of doing business that goes beyond the transfer of goods and services. It calls for a transfer of values known as small decencies. Steve is co-founder and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison and former chief ethics and compliance officer of Adecco Group.

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