The Importance of Workplace Dignity

In our previous blog, Positively Impacting Workplace Dignity, we described dignity at work as a sense or a feeling each of us has until we don’t! It would be fair to say that we become far more aware of WPD in its absence than we are in its presence. From that we would suggest that Workplace Dignity (WPD) is defined as “the self- and other-recognized worth acquired from (or injured by) engaging in work activity.”

So, with everything else there is to focus our attention upon these days, who cares? Why is WPD a topic that merits attention in a world that already has more than enough to worry about? This was a question that we (The Center for Leadership Studies) sought to answer.

We wound up collaborating with Training Industry and CEO.works on an extensive research project. Detailed results from that investigative study can be found here: Workplace Dignity In Leadership Ebook

In essence, we approached the topic by seeking insight on a variety of leadership-related dimensions we thought would be related to WPD:

  • Team adaptability: How do work-teams respond to unforeseen challenges?
  • Top management adaptability: To what extent does top management establish and sustain a culture that supports work teams during their response to those challenges?
  • Workplace status: Do people feel like they “matter” while at work?
  • Conversational quality: Do leaders establish and sustain a “safe haven” for work-related inclusion, discussion and decision-making?
  • Meaningfulness at work: Does the work itself matter? Is there a “noble purpose?”
  • Individual job outcomes: Are people satisfied with things like their work-life balance?
  • Training and leadership development practice: Does the organization invest and provide the opportunity to grow and develop?

We also asked whether in-person versus remote work environments factor into higher or lower WPD. Same for frontline workers versus senior level managers and the size of the organization. All were found to be inconsequential factors as it applied to levels of WPD. Where you work and the number of employees you are surrounded by appears to have very little effect on your personal sense of WPD.

When it comes to building alignment across multiple levels of management, higher WPD scores correlated directly with team and top management adaptability. Workplace dignity is also strongly correlated with strong conversational quality between leaders and those they are attempting to influence. In Situational Leadership® terms, this translates to consistent alignment between the approach of the leader and the Performance Readiness® of the follower for the task.

And how does WPD correlate to targeted business outcomes? Our research found a positive relationship between WPD and critical business metrics like:

  • Revenue growth
  • Market share
  • Profitability
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Retention rates

Perhaps forget the research for a minute, and ask yourself these questions. If you have high levels of WPD (i.e., self- and other-recognized worth acquired from engaging at work):

  1. Do you care more or less about doing all you can to help your team hit its productivity targets?
  2. Do you give more or less discretionary effort in the fulfillment of your responsibilities?
  3. All other things being equal, are you more or less likely to stay with your current organization?

WPD directly impacts engagement. And engagement directly impacts both productivity and retention! Beyond that, our study suggests that people with high WPD perceive more opportunity for leadership development, have greater opportunity to learn new things and believe they work in a culture that is dedicated to their personal growth and development.

Net-net? Measuring and cultivating WPD needs to be a cultural priority!

Part 3 of this series will address the key drivers of WPD in additional detail.