Danny Rehr
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Respect: An operational framework

Respect: An operational framework

Feb 03, 2023

Note from Danny: For those reading my blog for the first time, I cite others' work in the footnotes - always. If you're in business, manage a team or want to make sense of your workplace, then I recommend that you read the article that motivated this post. It's a must-read. An MBA (Strategy), I submit that this article should be required reading in any and all MBA programs.

A few weeks back, I wrote and recorded "How Strategy Happens: A Framework" (blog, podcast). A question I asked was "Why is the link between strategy and frameworks important to the individual employee?" To answer the question, I had to break down the difference between the two designs, and their overlapping similarities. I wrote:

Business strategy is to the market and the customer what an organization's framework is to the operation and the employee. Together, they satisfy all aspects. Misaligned, they fundamentally battle, creating mediocrity and suffering for all....Strategy isn't the product or service. A framework itself, strategy is the willful energy driving the organization's capability to make and fulfill.

That left frameworks to be picked apart and applied to operations. The blog post went on from there.

This week, I read an article from a 2018 copy of Harvard Business Review. It progressed these ideas about a framework far further, and brilliantly so. (To my readers, if you glossed over the Note from Danny atop this blog post, then I suggest you go back and consider...)

Respect the Identity

Photo by Nick Page on Unsplash.

Marquette University Associate Professor of Management, Kristie Rogers', article, "Do Your Employees Feel Respected?" expressed a fascinating tension analogously alive in every organization. Her research focus--prisoners working part-time for a business organization--strengthened the case to think about respect in all firms, organizations, departments and teams.

Concerning inmates, here you had those who'd fundamentally damaged their societal sense of respect, much less their self-respect as those in ubiquitous orange jump suits identified as numbers. Alike, detained, segregated from free society.

In contrast, when taking on the role of employees, they were persons of import. Functional contributors for a business.

This wasn't some academic experiment. The business had real customers, a real business strategy, and a transcendent organizational framework to seed respect amongst its entire operation, starting with--focused on--the staff.

Balancing Respect

Photo by Margarida CSilva on Unsplash.

"One of the subtler challenges in creating a respectful atmosphere," Rogers wrote, "is finding the right balance between the two types of respect." [1] Note that this quote doesn't speak to business strategy. It's an operational scenario. The phrase "striking the right balance" gives away a tension between the two. That's the organizational bit, an operational framework. The author developed this tension and its outcome. She professed that the then (and sadly, now, late-) CEO, "[Jim] Hooker’s, strategic genius was to recognize a need in the marketplace, but I believe it’s his emphasis on owed and earned respect that has enabled [the company's] success." [1]

Owed and earned respect, together, is effectively the result of what analytics firm, Gallup, Inc., considers an engaged employee. From its 2019 report, Building a High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy, "employee engagement describes the universal psychological needs that must be met for high performance and continual personal growth." [2] Rogers considered that personal growth as "identity development." That is, the individual tests and galvanizes who one is professionally.

Those are the meaningful highlights of the article to me. My intent is not to recap the whole thing. I want only to point out just how important respect is as both an organizational component and as an operational framework to put strategy to use.

Let me begin to wrap up with this quote:

Although employees who aren’t shown respect are acutely aware of its absence, people who feel respected on a regular basis—typically, those in managerial or other high-status roles—don’t think about it very much. So leaders may simply be unaware of the problem. [1]

How is respect honored in your workplace? How might identity development occur in your workplace? How might you become self-aware of the respect you show others? How might others show you the type of respect you need to grow as a professional?

[1] Rogers, Kristie. “Do Your Employees Feel Respected?” Harvard Business Review, vol. 96, no. 4, 2018, pp. 62–71.

[2] Building A High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy. Gallup, Inc., 2019, p. 18, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/355082/employee-engagement-strategy-paper.aspx, Accessed 26 Feb 2021.

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