With ‘respect’ …

Organisational Culture – Part 7

Respect is a value espoused by many non-profit organisations – as one would expect.

I suggested reflection on how respect is expressed within your organisation in a recent blog post, partly because it is so often at the core of workplace conflicts. Under different circumstances and at different times, we can each attach quite different meanings to the word – and therefore behave in markedly different ways.

Differences in perspective or disposition between the ‘respector‘ and the ‘respectee‘ can lead to friction and to organisational culture problems. Applying the precautionary principle, therefore, it is worthwhile clarifying how you, as directors and managers, wish to interpret and apply this value within your organisation.

Here is a selection of meanings we attach to the word, representing a spectrum of values and associated behaviours:

With respect to …

The term can be used to indicate mere relevance. The following comment concerns a particular matter e.g. “With respect to our policy on xxx”

With (all due) respect …

Intended originally to suggest polite disagreement before outlining the difference in viewpoint, e.g. “With all due respect, that account fails to acknowledge these other perspectives”. Regrettably, the phrase can often now be used sarcastically, suggesting disdain e.g. “With respect, you don’t know what you are talking about”.

Regard for someone as something (Respect the role)

Respect for role status or authority. E.g. “I respect my board chair, manager, and team leader”. Separating the person who performs a role at any given time from the regard owed to the office they are performing. E.g. respect the chair of the meeting; respect the CEO’s responsibility for operational matters; respect the advisory role of the CEO when the board is making strategic decisions.

Regard for someone for something

Expressing admiration for a person’s character, qualities, achievements, abilities, etc. E.g. “I respect Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a great moral leader”.

Pay someone respect

Encouraging a person who has been disrespectful in some way to be more temperate, deferential, or considerate for another e.g. “You really should pay your manager more respect”.

Respect each other

Give due regard to the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. Comes closest in meaning to the Golden Rule -‘treat others as you would want to be treated’. Label the behaviour, not the person. Allow others to learn from their mistakes as you would want to be allowed.

Respect personal boundaries/sensitivities

Observe social etiquette and the personal space of others. Avoid any form of violence, abuse, or rudeness.

Respect norms

Observe protocols and standard operating procedures. Honour the flag/logo, obey the law/rules, follow orders, fit in.

Respect values/principles

Observance of ethical values e.g. honesty, fairness, sustainability, ‘first do no harm’.

Respect people’s time

Don’t waste time on trivial or frivolous matters. Focus on being productive and ‘on task’.

Respect clients/stakeholders

Place the welfare and needs of those you are employed to serve above self-interest.

Respect for cultural heritage

“We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, waters, and community. We pay our respect to them and their cultures, and Elders, past, present, and future.”

Respect for diversity/differences

Acknowledgement, acceptance, and respect for the full range of human characteristics in their social, historical, and cultural contexts. Using inclusive language and being inclusive.


Confidence in oneself; a feeling that one behaves with integrity and dignity. Recognition of one’s own agency and independence; not needing the approval of others (or tolerating disrespect). Respecting the sovereignty and rights of others; “what goes around, comes around”. Learning from mistakes and struggles; and ‘owning them’ for the insights they offer for continuous improvement.

The respect of others

Respect is earned (as is disrespect). Respect cannot be demanded, or given as of right. “Give respect to gain respect”.


While it may only represent one aspect of your reflection on how respect is expressed in your organisation, sexual harassment is a vitally important one, demanding attention by both directors and managers.

Following outrage over abusive behaviour in the federal parliament, the Respect@Work Report (932 pages!) provided 55 recommendations to the Federal Government in March 2021. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins confirms that 12 of these recommendations sought specific legislative change affecting all workplaces. Of these, six recommendations have been adopted into law so far.

Commissioner Jenkins has urged further action to promote a culture of prevention, chiefly through imposing a “positive duty” on companies and organisations (including non-profits) to take steps to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination, and victimisation.

On 11 September 2021 the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 took effect.

Holding Redlich has summarised the major changes as follows:

  • compassionate leave for miscarriages
  • “stop sexual harassment orders” available in the Fair Work Commission (FWC), commencing 11 November 2021
  • section 28AA will be introduced into the SD Act prohibiting harassment on the ground of sex
  • sexual harassment is a “valid reason” for dismissal under the FW Act
  • politicians, judges, and various other public officials are now included in the Sex Discrimination Act

If you have not yet reviewed your policies and procedures in the light of these new compliance obligations, now is the time to follow up. Beyond mere compliance though, please consider what steps you can take to promote your culture of prevention.

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