In today’s business climate, surrounded by what seems to be a culture of division and disrespect, it’s more important than ever to create an environment where mutual respect is encouraged, and flourishes.

I have first-hand experience with the advantages of respecting your colleagues.  As a former state senator, I worked collaboratively with a number of people with whom I had strong disagreements. But, if we were going to accomplish anything, we needed to respect each other and find common ground.

In fact, a colleague from “the other side of the aisle” and I literally found common ground when we created the Hunger Garden at the capitol in Harrisburg.  

Now that I’m back in the world of business, I’ve found that respect is mandatory when dealing with clients, employees and colleagues. It keeps the conversations civil and lets people genuinely work together towards common goals.

This is especially true with employees.

It turns out that a 2014 study by Harvard backs me up. According to study, more than half of those surveyed did not feel respected by their bosses—yet respect was more important than financial compensation.

Worse, in a separate survey, 25 percent said they behaved in an uncivil way because they didn’t have a role model for respect.

What, exactly, then is respect and how can we model it? How can we make our employees feel respected?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of respect is: high or special regard. It also refers to a “state of being esteemed.”

But Christine Porath, associate professor of management at Georgetown University, reminds us, in her Harvard Business Review article that, “Leaders need to keep in mind that respect is different for different people; it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. Respect is directly tied to what a particular individual expects — and how the leader makes the person feel. Norms vary by culture, generation, and gender — as well as industry and organization.”

So, given the variables, how can we create an environment that is one of respect and civility?

It begins by listening to your employees. Solicit their opinions, let them air concerns, and take their suggestions seriously when warranted and possible. If an employee has a great idea that solves a problem or helps the bottom line, you won’t know about it unless you hear about it—which means keeping an open mind (and ear!)

Once listening and engaging is productive dialogue occurs, share the goals of the business and see how these goals align with your employee’s personal goals. Maybe you’re ready to expand your client base at the same time they want to move away from an administrative position. If you support them by encouraging them (maybe even with time off for classes!) to take the Series 6 exam, it benefits you both.

Be sure to give direct, timely praise for work that’s done well and acknowledge the role your employees have (individually and as a team) in the success of your business.

In financial services, it’s also good to share any compliments about your employees that are made by clients. In a world of complaints, a compliment goes a long way!

Finally, correct any behavior that is uncivil or disrespectful.  If you are modeling and encouraging respect, employees need to know that they are expected to treat each other with the same consideration.  

It’s okay to be human (everyone is!) and there will be bad days. But bad moods that spill over to the workplace, and negative attitudes towards others—especially if it crosses into personal insults or derisive comments—have a demoralizing effect and must be addressed.

Respecting people in the workplace will go a long way to countering the culture of incivility.