Respect in Communication – Skill that Connects People

And how a lack thereof hurts morale, productivity and much more ...

Guillem Casòliva Cabana, PhD
Updated on: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by:
Alexander Tokarev, PhD
Respect in Communication – PSYCULATOR
Christina wocintechchat |

Key points

  • Lack of respect at work results in a 78% decline in employees' commitment to the organization
  • Lack of respect at work lowers productivity of 66% of the impacted employees
  • Lack of respect at work causes 38% of the workforce to deliberately produce work of a lower standard

What Does Respectful Communication Mean?

Respectful communication is the ability to express our perspectives while also attentively considering the viewpoints of others.

This becomes especially crucial in instances of workplace conflicts or any form of miscommunication. In fostering a positive work environment, collaboration takes center stage, highlighting the significance of respectful communication.

The manner in which we communicate inherently shapes our conduct and relationships with colleagues. The pivotal element for cultivating workplace harmony lies in adopting an assertive communication style, one characterized by mutual respect. Consequently, what prerequisites exist for effective and respectful workplace communication?

David Bohm, in his work "On Dialogue", highlights the distinction between dialogue and discussion. He likens discussion to a competitive ping-pong game where someone invariably seeks victory. In contrast, dialogue represents a meaningful exchange of thoughts among individuals, aimed at arriving at a new understanding.

In this context, dialogue acts as the "glue" binding team members together, emphasizing collective success over individual triumph. This encapsulates the essence of team spirit, highlighting why respectful communication skills are not merely desirable but represent an integral component of a team committed to meaningful dialogue.

What are the Benefits of Respectful and Effective Communication in the Workplace?

In a positive corporate environment, practicing respectful communication conveys to employees that their hard work and accomplishments are valued, signifying their meaningful contribution to the company's success. As a result, there could be various advantages to employing respectful communication in the workplace. We will highlight a few essential ones below.

Less Stress

Engaging in respectful communication positively influences the mental well-being of employees by reducing their daily stress. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in conflicts, as employees feel empowered to discuss any potential issues with their colleagues and work together towards finding solutions. This paves the way for the next advantage.

Better Collaboration

As previously noted, when employees sense that their coworkers show respect in communication and hold them in high regard, collaboration becomes more seamless. They can openly seek assistance when facing challenges. In essence, the workplace environment improves when workers join forces to achieve shared objectives.

Positive Company Culture

A positive corporate culture forms the foundation for content and fulfilled employees. To foster engagement and job satisfaction, employees must experience respect, and this extends to communication. When coupled with a well-defined company vision and mutual respect among colleagues, job satisfaction among employees significantly rises. This results in a committed workforce, a valuable asset in the current climate of the Great Resignation – the recent trend of the mass voluntary exit of employees from their employment obligations.

Lower Turnover Rates

Respectful workplace communication is a catalyst for increased productivity and collaboration. Respectful communication also fosters satisfaction among both employees and the company. This not only diminishes the necessity for substantial investments in training and onboarding but also results in cost savings due to lower turnover rates.

We have drawn a comparison between respect and air, emphasizing their shared characteristic of being unnoticed but strongly felt when missing. If we have not persuaded you about the critical significance of respectful communication, it might be worthwhile to consider the repercussions when this essential element is absent. In a figurative sense, could we experience a form of organizational suffocation?

The Cost of Disrespect and Incivility

In her book titled "Don’t You Know Who I Am?"—which also serves as a contemporary narcissistic tagline—Ramani Durvasula highlights the prevailing era of incivility. We find ourselves amidst an epidemic of disrespectful individuals in our daily interactions, and whether we embrace it or not, we all bear the consequences.

So, what is the cost of a lack of respect in communication?

According to research from Harvard Business Review that conducted a poll on 800 managers and their employees across 17 different industries, disrespect has many tangible adverse effects on employees[1].

  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
  • 66% said that their performance declined.
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
  • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers.
  • 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.

The same study reveals that disrespect and incivility extend their negative impacts to customers. Specifically, customers are less inclined to make purchases from companies that employ impolite staff. In essence, disrespect not only harms customers but also detrimentally affects the company and its brand.

Additionally, disrespect creates a toxic work environment, diminishing employee engagement and, consequently, productivity. Gallup's research indicates that disengaged employees cost their company an equivalent of 18% of their annual income.

Respectful Communication Skills, Tips, and Strategies

In the realm of business and the workplace, demonstrating respect in communication is crucial for building relationships, advancing in one's career, and maximizing the work environment.

Whether involved in pitching ideas, negotiating business deals, or engaging in routine conversations with superiors or colleagues, the synergy of respect and communication is vital—not only as a cultural practice but also as a matter of common courtesy and relationship building.

If you're looking to enhance your skills as a respectful communicator, consider the following tips for successful workplace communication:

Practice Politeness, Courtesy, and Kindness Consistently

Regardless of the person you are communicating with, your shared history, your mood, or any other factors at play, maintaining good manners is imperative. Extend kindness and practice communication with respect daily. Be considerate of others' needs and opinions, and uphold politeness at all times—even when it is hard to do so. Demonstrating respect in this manner can significantly contribute to a positive impression and building a healthy workplace environment.

Listen Attentively

While communication often involves a lot of talking in various business contexts, remember that successful and respectful communication at work is a two-way street. Use active listening and pay close attention when engaged in conversations, ensuring that you truly hear and understand others' perspectives.

Avoid Negativity

Regardless of your frustration level, it is never appropriate to insult, belittle, or mock individuals or their ideas. Such behavior can result in a mutual loss of respect that could adversely impact the overall workplace atmosphere. Instead, as an example of communication with respect, opt for constructive approaches to problem-solving or collaboration when addressing challenges or concern.

Related: Neuroticism in Psychology - this article explains why some people are significantly more negative and difficult than others.

Address Issues Directly

Talk to people, and not about people. If you have an issue with a person or a situation, confront the problem head-on. Avoid harboring dissatisfaction or resorting to complaining behind someone's back, which may stem from a reluctance to face confrontation. Instead tackle the issue directly and constructively with the individual involved.

Avoid Excessive Criticism

When leading a team or providing feedback to employees, offer constructive criticism and suggest areas for growth. However, refrain from constant nitpicking, belittling, or patronizing, as these behaviors can discourage others and harm the working relationship.

Instead, provide ongoing positive reinforcement alongside constructive comments to instil confidence and motivation in your team. Remember communication with respect will always help to deliver feedback more effectively.

Treat Everyone Equally

Regardless of differences in background, position, qualifications, or other factors, maintain fairness and equality in your interactions with everyone. This practice fosters a positive workplace environment.

Be emotionally empathetic

Acknowledge that you may not know the intricacies of someone else's life. As an example of respectful communication, avoid being judgmental, impersonal, or closed-off. Keep yourself emotionally open, be attuned to others' cues, and practice empathy, as it can significantly contribute to building strong relationships.

Value Others’ Opinions

Recognize that diverse ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds enrich the workplace and drive progress. Encourage the expression of different viewpoints, consider others' opinions, and actively collaborate to create a multifaceted and innovative work environment.

Be Self-Aware

Recognize the influence of your culture and background on your perspective. Acknowledge the distinctions between yourself and the person you are communicating with. Often, misunderstandings arise between individuals from different cultures, generations, or backgrounds not due to the content of the message but rather the manner in which it is expressed.

To prevent such misinterpretations, avoid presuming shared perspectives and don't assume immediate understanding from the other party. Invest the time needed to ensure mutual comprehension and alignment.

Related: Openness in Psychology - this article explains exactly why some people are far more open toward different views and individuals from other cultures than others.

Disagreeing is OK

Conversations should not be treated as a competitive game. The goal in a discussion is not to emerge as the winner since opinions lack a definitive right or wrong. It is crucial to bear this in mind, emphasizing that your role is not to compel someone to share your perspective.

This recognition is a fundamental aspect of showing respect. It is perfectly acceptable to have differing viewpoints. The essence of a conversation is to gain insights from others, not to persuade them to adopt your beliefs. Ideally, both parties can mutually benefit and learn from the exchange.

Learn How to Earn Respect and Give Respect

In conclusion, effective communication and respect in the workplace are important elements of any company’s corporate success. Consider your personal relationships. When someone enters your office, do you set aside distractions and give them your undivided attention? Are you fully engaged in assisting your colleagues without interruptions? Do you demonstrate respect toward them?

I encourage you to experiment with displaying a more profound level of respect in your interactions with others. It goes beyond your intention to be respectful, as we all share that intention. Instead, it involves altering your behavior to convey a tangible sense of respect to others, creating a powerful feeling of being respected.