Creating a Culture of Respect in the Workplace

by | Nov 15, 2022 | Strategic Planning

As nonprofit leaders, we all know how essential it is to create a culture of respect in the workplace. But doing so can be challenging, particularly since it involves how many different people interact with each other day in and day out, often when they are busy and overwhelmed. A written list of values simply won’t do the job.

Instead, we find that cultivating a culture of respect often comes down to how we, as leaders and colleagues, cultivate meaningful interactions and authentic relationships each and every day.

Which is why a recent article about the number one tip for successful relationships caught our eye. According to psychologists, paying attention to our partners’ “bids for connection” can have a transformative effect on how we feel valued and supported at home.

Which has us here at Funding for Good wondering how this same approach could help nonprofit leaders cultivate a culture of respect in the workplace.


What is a Bid for Connection? 

According to Drs. John and Julie Schwartz Gottman, who have studied more than 40,000 couples, a bid for connection can be large or small.

Bids can range from little things, like trying to catch your attention by calling out your name, to big things, like asking for deeper needs to be met. The happiest couples are savvy enough to notice when their partner is making a bid, and drop what they’re doing, if necessary, to engage.

This rings true for many nonprofit workplaces as well. In Funding for Good’s recent guest post about Why Volunteers Stay, Val Parker of VP Solutions outlined the three reasons volunteers keep coming back to support an organization:

  • Because they feel they are contributing
  • Because they are seen and recognized as individuals
  • Because they feel valued

Just like in a relationship at home, in the workplace it’s important to make sure volunteers, staff members, board members, and others feel valued.

Usually, as leaders we think of salaries and benefits, we think of giving a year-end bonus to our outstanding team members or throwing a holiday party for volunteers. But the reality is feeling valued isn’t about dollars or parties. It’s about how we feel respected in the day-to-day.

That’s where learning to recognize and respond to bids for connection comes in.


A Culture of Respect in the Workplace Requires Consistency and Clarity

As organizational leaders, it’s both our privilege and our responsibility to create a workplace where diverse team members can succeed. That includes investing in explicit diversity, equity, and inclusion work, while also setting the tone for a workplace where all team members feel valued.

A recent piece in Fast Company highlights the critical role of leaders, explaining that:

As a leader, you have the opportunity each day to bring meaning to your team members and colleagues. Meaning ignites the human spirit and is the core fuel of purpose-driven work. It is an essential source of creativity, innovation, and value creation.

Research supports the fact that having clarity and meaning in the workplace is also good business sense.

That’s why, in addition to integrating habits like responding to bids for connection, we recommend two additional areas for investment:


  • Leadership Training: Being a great visionary or a great team member isn’t the same as being a great leader. Which is why it’s critical to continue investing in leadership training, particularly for management staff. Besides increasing managers’ skills, it sends a clear sign to your staff that you care about their growth and that you’re committed to building a strong management culture at your organization. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out Funding for Good’s Nonprofit Leadership Development offerings.


  • Strategic Planning: Being clear about your organizational vision, mission, goals and metrics for success is another powerful way to convey both meaning and clarity. If your staff, board, and volunteers all understand what it is they’re working for—and how their roles fit into that vision—it can be a powerful motivator. It can also set the tone to reinforce that every role within an organization is valuable. How do you achieve this? We recommend starting with strategic planning.


A Culture of Respect in the Workplace Can Be a Delicate Balance

It’s worth noting how fragile the balance between feeling respected and valued is. According to the psychologists cited above, negative interactions can have an outsized effect on us:

During everyday life you need at least 20 positive interactions for every negative one.

Which is why it’s worth thinking about creating a culture of respect in the workplace before it becomes a crisis.

Often, we think of successful organizations as being driven by vision. But the truth is, for sustainable success, it’s all about how leaders and colleagues make each other feel valued.

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