What Is Workplace Dignity?
Dignity at work is 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 Workplace Dignity 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.”
Why Is Workplace Dignity Important?
So, with everything else there is to focus our attention on these days, who cares? Why is WPD a topic that merits attention in a world that already has more than enough to worry about?
In essence, we approached the topic by seeking insight into 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 they 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.
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
- Employee satisfaction
- Retention rates
Question To Ask Yourself
If you have high levels of dignity in the workplace (i.e., self- and other-recognized worth acquired from engaging at work):
- Do you care more or less about doing all you can to help your team hit its productivity targets?
- Do you give more or less discretionary effort in the fulfillment of your responsibilities?
- 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.
The Key Drivers of Workplace Dignity
Adaptability in this context translates to the power of a team to cope with, respond to and/or support necessary change. Teams with higher WPD tend to be characterized by the ability to demonstrate flexibility in the face of emergent circumstance. The agility to pivot and to work in support of the collective creates an environment characterized by emotional stability and inclusion. Without trust, the functionality of the team decreases, and individuals are less likely to perform at their best. Ultimately, WPD and the degree of team adaptability comes down to a single question: Can I respond to the challenges facing my team in my role, now?
Top Management Adaptability
We are all aware of the impact senior management has on an organization. The way they recognize and adapt to change has a significant effect at every level and on every activity in the organization. In that regard, top management adaptability is a key determinant of culture. Do employees speak transparently about challenges, problems and fears? Do they feel safe? Do they truly feel as though their opinion and perspective are valued? Team adaptability is a function of cultural adaptability—and cultural adaptability is a function of the priorities of top management.
Conversational quality is a qualitative read on the value leaders provide those they are attempting to influence. Important to remember here is that leadership is multidirectional. In other words, it isn’t confined to bosses in discussions with their direct reports. Ideally, leadership in an organization is fluid. It flows down, up and laterally in a healthy organization that prioritizes WPD. In more granular terms, high WPD translates to leadership conversations that are, generally, categorized as positive, productive, intentional, efficient and genuine.