Respect: A Secret Ingredient for Psychological Safety and Organisational Success

Respect is more than just a buzzword thrown around in HR meetings. It’s a critical component of any successful and thriving organisation and can have a profound impact on collaboration, team performance and psychological safety. That’s why at Steople, we’ve made ‘Respect’ one of the six core factors in our comprehensive Psychological Safety Model.

Respect goes beyond mere pleasantries or politeness. At its core, respect is about creating an inclusive environment where team members feel seen, heard, and valued for their unique perspectives and contributions. It’s about fostering a culture where diversity of thought is not only tolerated but celebrated, and where differences are seen as strengths to be harnessed rather than obstacles to be overcome. When respect is present, employees are more likely to be engaged, productive, and committed to the organisation’s goals[i]. Additionally, employees feel safe to share their ideas, ask questions, and voice concerns without fear of retribution or judgment fostering more effective problem-solving and decision-making.

But what is respect? What does it look like?

Professor Michael Leiter has created a simple model called ‘The 4 A’s of Respect’.  Whilst (hopefully) we would all like to be respectful, sometimes we unintentionally show disrespect to others. According to Michael Leiter to demonstrate respect, we need to:

  1. ‘Acknowledge’ others by showing that we recognise their presence. I can recall joining a recent virtual meeting not knowing the others in the meeting, and the leader of the session failed to greet, say hello or introduce the people on the call. It was not a big group of people, yet, the failure to ‘acknowledge’ everyone left a feeling of disrespect and exclusion.
  2. ‘Accepting’ others can be as simple as explicitly or implicitly welcoming someone into your conversation or group. Acknowledging and Accepting others unlike the example above helps to build a sense of respect.
  3. ‘Accommodating’ is perhaps the most challenging of these behaviours, whereby you modify your activities to help another person. This element requires listening, understanding, empathy and willingness to actively adjust your behaviours to help others. This typically happens when there are significant time pressures to deliver short-term outcomes and/or when a leader has a strong command and control style.
  4. ‘Appreciating’ is the final attribute that demonstrates respect – which involves showing thanks for another person’s contribution.

A few years ago, Steople were approached by a potential client in the healthcare industry to help improve their levels of respect within the workplace. They wanted to create higher levels of civility and drive increased levels of engagement and respect. Ironically, as Steople began working with them, we very quickly observed many disrespectful behaviours from those leading the project.  This was demonstrated through a lack of accommodation to needs and appreciation, whereby there was no listening but rather a dictatorial ‘old school’ style of interacting with us. Sadly, this is an example of a highly dysfunctional organisation with a lack of respect that failed to recognise their own role in change.

This example is totally different from a more recent client that we are currently working with.  A government client with over 7,000 employees across Australia approached Steople seeking help to improve 2-way communication throughout their organisation. We agreed to work on improving psychological safety to help with this overall aim and quickly identified that there was a problem with respect.  Through a series of conversations with senior leaders, they showed courageous honesty and vulnerability. With some soul searching, this client looked in the mirror at themselves and acknowledged the discrepancy between their intentions and behaviours.  Whilst this initiative is still in progress, the leaders of this business have set personal and team goals and are well on their way to creating genuine respect.

Why is RESPECT important in your organisation?

Research indicates that one of the most significant impacts of respect on a team is increased productivity1. Think about it – when you feel respected, you are more likely to be motivated and committed to your work. You are also more likely to collaborate and share ideas with your colleagues, leading to more effective problem-solving and better decision-making. On the other hand, when there is a lack of respect, morale can plummet, and productivity can suffer.

But it doesn’t stop there -respect also creates a positive workplace culture [ii]. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are happier and more satisfied with their work. This creates a positive feedback loop, with increased productivity and engagement fuelling a positive work environment. A healthy workplace culture is also more likely to attract and retain top talent, setting the stage for even greater organisational success.

Additionally, respect can lead to better communication and conflict resolution [iii]. When people feel respected, they are more likely to listen to each other and consider different perspectives, leading to more productive conversations and better outcomes when conflicts arise. In contrast, a lack of respect can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts that are difficult to resolve.

It’s not just about the bottom line – respect can directly improve employee wellbeing [iv]. Feel valued and appreciated can positively impact mental health outcomes, such as lower levels of stress and anxiety. This can lead to better physical health outcomes, including lower blood pressure and reduced risk of chronic disease.

Put simply, respect is not just a feel-good concept; it’s a fundamental element impacting psychological safety and organisational success. Respect, along with 5 other key factors make up our valid and reliable Steople Psychological Safety Model.

If you’re looking to enhance your organisational culture, boost productivity, and create an inclusive workplace, don’t underestimate the power of respect. Let us show you how our Steople Psychological Safety Model, along with our expert consultants, can unlock the full potential of respect in your organization. Read to learn more? Contact Steople now.



[i] LaGree, D., Houston, B., Duffy, M., & Shin, H. (2021). The effect of respect: Respectful communication at work drives resiliency, engagement, and job satisfaction among early career employees. International Journal of Business Communication, 232948842110165.

[ii] Decker, C., & Van Quaquebeke, N. (2014). Getting respect from a boss you respect: How different types of respect interact to explain subordinates’ job satisfaction as mediated by self-determination. Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 543–556.

[iii] Caesens, G., Stinglhamber, F., Demoulin, S., De Wilde, M., & Mierop, A. (2019). Perceived organizational support and workplace conflict: The mediating role of failure-related trust. Frontiers in Psychology, 9.

[iv] Basit, A. A. (2019). Examining how respectful engagement affects task performance and Affective Organizational Commitment. Personnel Review, 48(3), 644–658.