After being passed over twice for a promotion, a friend wrote a detailed missive to her boss which extolled the value of her skills and contribution. Demonstrating her worth consequently paid off with a promotion and a better work life experience. It gave her peace of mind, reduced her work life stress and gave her the confidence to buy that new car she needed.
In a shaky job market, it was a courageous move. But it was less about the promotion for her, than it was about respect. Prior attempts for promotion fell on deaf ears. They were were quelled with “we’ll consider it” or were dismissed with a “you’re fortunate to be working” attitude. Not a great way to foster respect, trust or boost morale in the workplace.
Climate of Respect and Trust at Work
In a recent study by the Families and Work Institute, The State of Health in the American Workplace: Does having an effective workplace matter? a “Climate of respect and trust” is one of six criteria of effective workplaces. FWI lists the elements which make up that particular”climate” from the employees point of view.
- I trust what our managers say.
- My managers deal ethically with employees and clients.
- My managers seek new information and ideas from employees.
In its research, FWI partially defines an “effective workplace” as one which recognizes that employees are an “organization’s greatest resource.” It stands to reason that a “Climate of respect and trust” is a vital building block for an effective workplace. The FWI found that such a climate was a factor in employee engagement and job satisfaction, but there was also a work life or well-being outcome:
“Employees who experienced a climate of respect at work are more likely to report that their jobs give them more energy for their life at home.”
Throughout the FWI report, the workplace health concerns are broken down with a number of questions that examine the different experiences of men and women at work, but the criteria listed for an effective workplace apply to both genders. Men and women see these issues through different lens’, but ultimately, we’re all human beings at work which triggered some thoughts about The Shriver Report.
The Influence of the Shriver Report
The call for respect, trust, dignity and equality in the workplace has been front and center due to the widespread media exposure of The Shriver report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, which was done in association with the Center for American Progress.
The report demonstrates the swinging of the workforce pendulum as women are half of the workforce. The essays (written by both men and women) effuse with mounting conviction, that corporate America and society in general must wake up to the fact that more women in the workforce brings with it the following:
- Building momentum for pay equity
- Building momentum for more women in senior management positions
- Building momentum for better work life effectiveness initiatives like workplace flexibility, family leave, workplace stress reduction, time management, & elder and child care programs
Attention to all of these items are money in the back toward a “Climate of respect and trust” at work. Consciously bringing more awareness to these concerns raises the bar on the conversation and the Shriver Report did indeed do that. It’s probably one of the most important documents to trigger conversation in my lifetime on work life issues. But the last item should send up a big red flag. “Work Life Effectiveness” needs to be looked upon as gender neutral to elevate the dialogue and consciousness around work life issues – thus leading to more respect and trust in the workplace.
The Question of Feminism
I was brought up as a feminist; but to fearlessly tackle injustice, no matter the gender of the humanity pool at risk. One can argue that due to working women often taking on the lead role of family caregiver, and this sudden shift of women being half the workforce, we can expect to see a tsunami of ideas, initiatives and even legislation. But I suggest taking it a step further.
Business and corporate America in general needs to be galvanized at a deeper level with regard to the treatment of human beings at work; the human capital quotient of the business machine. That means tackling work life effectiveness across the board making it gender-neutral.
(Disclaimer: That’s not to say that some work life concerns are not specifically gender related; for example, breastfeeding/lactation rooms etc. And check out this research from the Sloan Work and Family Research Network; Opportunities for Policy Leadership on Fathers.)
Making work life effectiveness a gender-neutral concern brings a dynamic twist to a conversation that has, for too long, stayed in the ladies room. It’s about a climate of respect and trust at work; an area in desperate need of evolution. But it’s not just a female issue, it’s a human one.