[January 13, 2014] Respect is one of those workplace conditions that impacts directly on the ability of an organization to function, to accomplish its mission, and its leadership to succeed. Respect cannot be purchased, it cannot be willed into place, and it cannot be repaired easily if damaged.
Once an organization has lost respect among its employees, changing its workplace culture requires an enormous, concentrated effort. Such a turnabout is extraordinarily difficult and is not to be underestimated. Without direct senior leader engagement, the culture will not change.
One key requirement is that all leaders must possess a strong-minded level of respect in all things they do. This categorically requires a level of unquestionable integrity to do the right thing and the people skills to make the effort to communicate with people. If a leader is not on board with this need, then that leader must be removed.
A few weeks ago on this blog, the proposition made was that one driver of workplace dysfunction was increasing trends of disrespect and anger. Leaders should be providing the motivation and moral courage to overcome the workplace sickness of lack of respect and increasing levels of anger.
Today, we hear about embezzlement, contractor fraud, sexual harassment, racism, discrimination, etc. (the list seems endless). The quick-fix reaction of many organizations is to create training programs that target each of the specific problems.
An example of a quick-fix in the U.S. Army, is a program called SHARP (Sexual Harassment Assault Prevention and Response Program). The program’s intent is to, “aggressively address sexual assaults by first focusing on prevention through education and training.” Classes are given, attendance taken, and everyone goes back to business. The SHARP program has provided benefit and continues to be the program of choice.
Yet, is there a more powerful alternative to a quick-fix and needs-specific type training programs?
The short answer is, “yes.” The problem with so many of these training programs is twofold. First, it is a typical bureaucratic answer to a tough problem, an attempt by a lumbering organization full of managers trying to please a higher authority. Second, it completely renounces leadership as the primary condition to solve the problem.
As a bureaucratic solution, it is the disjointed application of resources. Some call it the whack-a-mole approach to solving problems. Each requires resources and does not efficiently get to the heart of the problem – in this case, lack of respect.
The answer is to institute a single agenda, senior leadership supported strategy that reintroduces respect based on ethics and morals. Restoring respect for everyone – regardless of gender, race, religion, national origin, handicap, etc. – will solve the respect problem that needs-specific training cannot fix, at least without unlimited resources.
The last key requirement is that the senior leaders in the organization must be driving the workplace culture change. Without their leadership and support, there will be no change. A positive workplace culture is the responsibility of senior leaders, not bureaucratic managers.
Experienced, steady leadership is the solution.