Treating Employees Respectfully Pays Off

Treating employees with respect and dignity is critical to retaining good workers, especially in a better job market. According to a survey conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence and the authors of The Enthusiastic Employee, employees who feel they are not treated with respect by their employers are three times more likely to leave their jobs within two years than those who feel they are treated respectfully. And that’s money out of your business’s pocket.


If developing respect is not an important part of the management philosophy, a majority of employees in whom you have invested time and money to train will walk out the door after a couple of years. This may be just a blip on the bureaucratic human resources longevity chart, but the company has wasted all that time and money only to have to turn around and find, hire, and train new employees. In the meantime, company productivity lags because the employees who continue to put in their eight hours daily may have mentally quit, and their performance will show it.

How well respected employees feel is also directly related to how enthusiastic they are about their jobs. Enthusiasm can make every aspect of your business more of a glowing success. When I was CEO of LifeUSA, many of our employees were very outspoken in their personal assessment of the company and its treatment of employees. In their phone calls, memos, personal conversations, and letters, they would frequently mention how proud they felt to be working for an organization that respected their accomplishments and treated them with the respect they deserved. This type of adulation is not important for the individual manager, but it is important for the overall success of the culture and is earned by a management with communication of respect that is consistent, concise, and constant.

Trickle-Down Effect of Respect

One of the surprising results of the Sirota survey-and one that supports the employee-as-major-asset theme of this post-is what I call the trickle-down effect noted in many businesses. The company executives at the top get the lion’s share of everything nifty a corporation has to offer, and the rank employees get the scraps-including respect.

Employees in bureaucratic cultures feel that nonmanagement employees are treated with less respect than management (especially senior management). In fact, one recent study showed that while almost half of senior-level managers feel they are shown a great deal of respect, just one-quarter of supervisors and only 20 percent of nonmanagement employees feel the same way.

It does not surprise me to learn that the survey discovered that one out of every seven nonmanagement employees actually feels he or she is treated poorly or very poorly. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be.  I wrote at length about employee respect and bureauracy in my recent book, Beat the System.

Most bureaucratic cultures treat their lower-ranking employees like cogs in an unfeeling machine, while top managers hog most of the salaries, bonuses, stock options, perks, and favorable treatment. Nothing is in parallel. Everything favors top management.

If you’re a smart manager, you’ll find ways to develop respect for all your employees and reward them — top to bottom. I think you’ll be surprised by the results to your bottom line.

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6 responses to “Treating Employees Respectfully Pays Off

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