Why respect matters

Best of 2015, first published on October 30, 2015
As I’m writing this I can see the NPR news crawl out of my office window. It’s filled with stories about people talking disrespectfully about other people and other groups. Showing respect continues to be an important way for us  as leaders to reach out to our students, faculty, staff, and community.

–Dee Anne Bonebright

respect effectAs you read this I’ll be at the Academic and Student Affairs leadership conference. One of the breakout sessions that Todd and I are leading is loosely based on The Respect Effect by Paul Meshanko.

Respect and its opposites, bullying and incivility, have been a hot topic in higher education for the past 10 years or so. What is it about respect that’s so important to shaping organizational culture?

First, as we pointed out in the breakout session, a culture of respect is more inclusive and allows people with different backgrounds and viewpoints to bring their best.

Second, students and staff who feel respected are more engaged. They are more likely to share their ideas, contribute their thoughts, and work collaboratively.

In addition, Meshanko’s research has shown that people have different cognitive responses to respect and to incivility. Those who show respect are viewed as potential collaborative partners, while those who display incivility or bullying are viewed, naturally enough, as threats.

Meshanko provides 12 rules for demonstrating respect.  Those that are especially important for academic leaders include:

  • Develop a curiosity about the perspective of others
  • Assume everyone is smart about something
  • Look for opportunities to connect with and support others
  • When you disagree, explain why
  • Balance the time you spend talking and the time you spend listening

These actions seem common-sense, but I have found that they can be improved with time and attention.  What other ways have you developed to show respect?

Dee Anne Bonebright


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.