Respect at Work Pays & Everyone Wins

I get ticked off when executives get all weak at the knees when talking about values like the three elements of the Character Triangle: Accountability, Respect, and Abundance. “Real business men and women” talk about margin, cash flow, EBITDA , etc. But talk about personal values and the board room blushes. Why?

Real leaders know that business effectiveness is about balance and that getting great financial results ultimately depends on what PEOPLE do and how they do it. However, to make those more attracted to just the financial metrics, note the following.

Jack Wiley is the founder and Executive Director of the Kenexa High Performance Institute. Last year his team surveyed more than 30,000 people who work in the biggest economies—including Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. and learned that workers across job types, cultures, industries, and pay scales don’t want to just be paid. While a quarter of employees rate pay as their highest priority, 75 percent of what employees most want has nothing to do with taking home a bigger paycheck—they want RESPECT: recognition, exciting work, security, pay, education, conditions, and truth.

RESPECT Makes Financial Sense

Wiley’s group contrasted companies that have high and low ratings for all of the RESPECT items defined above and found that high-RESPECT companies outperform low-RESPECT companies. The following is an excerpt from Wiley’s article in the October issue of Leadership Excellence magazine:

• Employee Engagement. Employees who get what they want from their organizations are more engaged than their unfulfilled counterparts. Their scores are 40 percentage points higher when it comes to workplace pride, satisfaction, advocacy, and commitment.

• Operation Performance. High-RESPECT employees outscore their low-RESPECT counterparts by more than 25 percentage points when asked about their companies’ product quality, customer satisfaction, and competitiveness.

• Customer Satisfaction. High- RESPECT companies achieve excellent scores, and greatly out perform their low-RESPECT competitors on the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

• Financial Performance. By correlating RESPECT scores against Diluted Earnings per Share, Return on Assets, and Total Shareholder Return, we found the high-RESPECT companies outperformed their low-RESPECT competitors across all three financial metrics.

Character Move:

  1. Recognize that most elements of RESPECT don’t cost much to improve. BUT it takes conscious and focused action. You need to be aware where you stand on the RESPECT continuum.
  2. Read Wiley’s work and the Respect chapter in The Character Triangle to better understand the behavior that supports building respect.
  3. Take action yourself. If you’re a manager, determine what action you can take in your area to drive reinforce it. Measure for it. If you are an individual contributor, lead by your action.
  4. Remember that RESPECT pays!

Respect as a dividend in The Triangle,


  1. Rick Maurer says:

    Lorne –

    Great post. And consistent with the solid research on employee engagement. (I like your addition to the word abundance to the conversation.)

    When i sued to conduct management development seminars on motivation and leadership, I would ask people to think about the most satisfying job they ever had. And then list why it was such a good job. (I’m sure you know where this is going.”

    The list contained the very things you write about. (Money seldom appeared on their lists.) Even though they could see what motivated them, some seemed to believe that their employees were motivated by something different. So my challenge was to show them that, although they breathed rarefied air, their employees were pretty much motivated by the same things.

  2. Paul says:

    Finished reading the book, it’s very good, thanks for writing it. There was a part about self-respect which made me notice something. Am I respecting myself when I delay things, when I waste time, when I don’t do what I should be doing, and all the negative things we do to ourselves? I wonder, do we get so used to disrespecting ourselves because we take for granted getting disrespected by many, that disrespect becomes such a normal thing in our mind (the culture in some places). Maybe there’s a connection there. I liked that the book could apply to any age and all career levels. Thanks for including all the links and references.

    • Lorne says:

      Paul thanks for buying and reading the book. I want to send a signed one to you if you’re interested. Forward the address you would like it sent to to

      I do think we get so many negative vibes regaring respect that it is easy to apply the same to ourselves. I think every day we need to look at ourselves again and love what we are and do….not what we don’t do. I think we need to reinforce this consciously. Not just self pep talks but slowly building our habit system into behavior that reinforces a more desirable state of who we are and what we think. We have control of that. I think that puts the negative stuff around us; what we don’t have control of…where it belongs. On the shoulders of others.

  3. Lorne says:

    Paul…I think we have lost our way on the basics. People need to have basic vacation, health benefits, and reasonable work/life balance. As the CEO of an international company, the ratio between my CEO pay/ benefits and front line pay/ benefits is less than 10 to 1. In many of today’s companys it is more than 100 to 1. The idea of paying less and taking away more because we complete on a world stage is often bogus. The underlying ” occupy wall street” emotion has merit. And most thoughtful business leaders I privately talk to recognize it.

    The challenge is to find ways of expanding and growing the pie for EVERYONE! Not just top execs.

    As always I appreciate your thoughts.

  4. Paul says:

    That’s right, we don’t need values like vacation days, only 8 hour days, 401k’s, medical benefits, education benefits, workers’ rights, mimimum wages, and all that other nonesense. Employees should be able to give their all to the company without those things. If only people functioned that way how happy corporate execs would be. Those execs forget the respect they got from their families, their government, their friends, their Constitution, their society, to be able to get to where they are today. Just my opinion.

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