Leaders across all industries are constantly looking for the secret formula to motivate employees and increase productivity. While there are many paths to helping companies become more efficient and more productive, I believe that when it comes to getting the best out of employees,
it centers on one element: respect.
The vast body of current research suggests that the best leaders are those who create environments where employees want to perform at the highest level possible on their own. This cannot be accomplished through traditional command and control style management. The best results that I have seen (which are supported by neuroscientific research on how the brain reacts in positive situations) are achieved through one of the most basic human behaviors: the showing of respect.
Engagement is the goal
The real goal for leaders is employee engagement, a condition in which employees become emotionally invested in the success of their organizations. Employees who are highly engaged are significantly more willing to go the extra mile and give of discretionary time and effort on behalf of the company.
To have sustained engagement, there has to be an environment of respect because it is one of the emotional states that biologically primes us to do our best work.
Within the brain, respectful interactions trigger the release of serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. In positive, respectful situations, these powerful neurotransmitters are released and create a feeling of satisfaction and a willingness to perform at our best while helping others at the same time.
Leaders who come across as domineering, threatening or intimidating have the opposite effect. Because their employees typically feel diminished or disrespected, a loss of productivity occurs. Disrespectful behaviors trigger the release of the chemicals cortisol and adrenaline into their brains that shut down the prefrontal cortex and literally inhibit their ability to give their best.
Disrespect can hurt
While employees are less likely to leave in a down economy, research shows that there is a future cost when a leader pushes people too hard and makes unreasonable demands on their personal time. Add disrespect to the equation and when the economy turns, these disrespected workers are more likely to leave for a better working environment.
Remember, the more talented an individual, the greater the risk that they’ll leave. And at a cost of 1.5 to 2.5 times a person’s compensation, turnover can represent a staggering direct hit to the organization’s bottom line.
In northeast Ohio, because Cleveland is not as geographically appealing to young people as Chicago, New York or San Francisco, we have a steeper hill to climb for attracting or keeping top talent. The last thing that leaders want to allow is perceptions of disrespect to aggravate an already challenging situation.
Getting people from dissimilar age, gender and ethnic backgrounds to work together can be a challenge. Research shows that people who are different from each other can work through prejudices and work collaboratively when intentionally managed in an environment of respect.
While reality shows like “The Apprentice” make for good TV drama, Donald Trump wannabes should be aware that it is the wrong way to get the best out of employees. In the real world, who could possibly do their best work with emotional breakdowns, frustration and backstabbing? The key to long-term success and productivity begins with respect.
About the Author
Paul Meshanko is president and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, a global provider of employee training, diversity and inclusion seminars, organizational surveys and executive coaching. He is the author of “The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace,” and an internationally recognized speaker and business leader. Reach him at pmeshanko@LegacyCultures.com