The Secret to Employee Engagement? Massive Infusions of Respect, Properly Understood

You wouldn’t try to “install” love in your household, would you?  Creating Pert Charts and RASCI Matrices and Budget Spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks limning all of the glorious details of your multi-phased "Love Installation Plan”?  No, you wouldn’t.  Rather, you just sort of know that your job is to do certain other things well, the result of which—you fervently hope—will be a loving household.

Much as we’d like to take affirmative steps to “install” engagement in our organizations, it doesn’t work that way there, either. 

Employee Engagement is not an input, it’s an output, i.e., the result of other things having been done well—or at least not done poorly.  People aren’t going to feel engaged if they don’t feel empowered; they’re not going to feel empowered if they don’t feel trusted; and they’re not going to feel trusted if they don’t feel respected.  Said the other way around: respect begets trust, which begets empowerment, which begets engagement.

It all starts with constant infusions of respect, properly understood to mean: Giving due consideration to the other. 

·      Definition of “the other”: Anybody who isn’t you

·      “Consideration” means just that.  While you were saying or doing whatever it is that you said or did, did you stop to think about—did you consider—the effect it would have on the other person?

·      “Due” makes clear that judgment is involved.  (Simply acceding to the wishes/desires of the other isn’t respect; it’s abdication.)  Since the definition of “due” will differ from case to case, those judgments have to be made on a person-by-person basis.

So, you have a choice.  You can mount big, highly visible programs and initiatives designed to affirmatively “install” engagement, expending lots of dollars and credibility capital in the process.  Or you can focus, quietly and assiduously, on infusing respect, properly understood to mean: Giving due consideration to the other.

Can it really be as simple as that?  Yes, it can.  Note, though, that simple doesn’t mean easy.  Maintaining focus on respect as an organizational lodestar is hard.  In fact, it's hard as hell.  But as I used to say to my kids when they’d come home and whine about some aspect of whatever their current summer job happened to be at the moment, “That’s why it’s called work.”