Respect in your workplace

How to set clear expectations and promote respectful behaviour in your workplace.



How this helps your business

There are many benefits to a considerate and respectful workplace. Some include:

  • job satisfaction
  • positive attitudes and teams that work well together
  • high employee morale
  • good relationships between owners/managers and employees
  • less sick leave and staff turnover

When rudeness and disrespect are tolerated in a workplace, there is a strong chance that more serious problems like harassment and bullying will follow.

Key stats and facts

Step 1: Learn more on this topic

Most people know that harassment and bullying are serious problems. But low-level rudeness, such as sarcasm, interrupting people, and giving someone the cold shoulder, can also make workplaces unpleasant to be in. People stop putting in their best work, teamwork and relationships suffer, and the risk of mental injury goes up.

The video below shows what this kind of lower level disrespect looks like. As you watch it, try to notice which behaviours are inappropriate. The video uses the term 'incivility' to describe these low-level inappropriate behaviours.

Step 2: Assess your workplace

Now that you have a better understanding of what workplace rudeness can look like, think about the way your employees act. You could use the list below and note each behaviour that you've seen in your workplace.

Choose 2 that you think are happening the most often or causing the most problems. These are your priority areas. Your employees might be able to help you here.

Step 3: Identify opportunities

Take a look at this list of sample strategies and choose 1 or 2 that you think will make a difference in your workplace. Again, your employees might have some valuable suggestions here.

To help you decide, look at the priority areas you chose above.

Tip: choose a strategy that is simple enough that you can do in the next 2 months. This will show everyone in the workplace that courtesy and respect is important.

Write these in the 'focus area and action plan' section of your checklist.

Strategies for a more respectful workplace

  • Ongoing and regular chats with employees about their behaviour – this can be in team meetings, one-on-one meetings or performance reviews.
  • Include rudeness in your anti-bulling and harassment policy and procedure – explain what it means and give examples of rude and polite behaviour.
  • Encourage employees to bring up concerns when they notice unacceptable behaviours.
  • Make sure the language you use isn’t discriminatory or rude – use Dave's tips on communicating via email from the video in Step 1.
  • Always keep things confidential when you have been asked to – otherwise there will be no trust in the workplace.
  • Write a charter about your commitment to creating and maintaining a courteous and respectful workplace. Share this with your employees through email and/or sticking up print-outs of it.
  • Respond to any unacceptable behaviour quickly – this is your responsibility as an owner or manager. Make sure your process for handling unacceptable behaviour is clearly stated for all staff to see (for example, in a code of conduct or procedures).
  • You should have a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude to rude and unacceptable behaviour. (That doesn’t mean automatically firing someone who’s rude, just that you never let it slide either.)
  • Managers need to be role models of good behaviour. If you have managers, consider training them in genuine and respectful actions, and in how to respond when they see rudeness.

WorkSafe, 2017 and Australian Public Service Commission, 2013

Step 4: Make a plan

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Working through this simple action plan worksheet will set the direction you want to take, give you milestones to hit, and help you figure out what resources you might need.

Step 5: Review and keep improving

It's important to ask your employees their opinion when implementing a new strategy. It also gets your workplace involved and onboard, passes on a sense of personal responsibility and collaboration, and allows for continued improvement.

  • Ask employees the right questions: are we doing things right, or are there better ways it can be done?
  • Have regular chats with all employees and keep them engaged. If something didn't work, tell them that and get them involved in ways to improve things.
  • Review regularly  –   set a date and stick to it
  • Look to see if your goal has been achieved. If not, why? Was it a lack of understanding?
  • Make a specific person responsible for monitoring and evaluating so they can keep track of how things are changing over time.

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.