The Key Drivers of Workplace Dignity

In the first two blogs in this series, we defined Workplace Dignity (WPD) as “the self- and other-recognized worth acquired from (or injured by) engaging in work activity.” We went on to explore the documented and comparatively positive impact of high dignity in organizations: productivity, employee engagement and employee retention.

This blog will focus on the key drivers of WPD:

  • Team adaptability
  • Top management adaptability
  • Conversational quality

Team Adaptability

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?

Here are three additional questions you can consider as you determine the current level of your team adaptability:

  1. Does your team respond to changes with positive energy that may include taking on new roles to cope with or alter the way the team functions?
  2. Does your team “take a step back” and consider how change will impact that functionality?
  3. Is your team able (and willing) to learn new skills or acquire relevant information to improve team responsiveness and reliability?

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.

Consider these questions to help you assess the adaptability of your senior leaders:

  1. Are the senior managers in your organization visible and accessible (especially during disruptive change)?
  2. Do your senior managers actively support those in the organization who thoughtfully diagnose problems and adapt their approach accordingly?
  3. When it comes to leadership and influence, do your senior managers spend as much time emphasizing how results are achieved as they do the bottom-line achievement of those targeted outcomes?

Conversational Quality

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 (or formal leaders) 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.

Here are three simple questions you can use to reveal the quality of conversations in your organization:

  1. Are those in discussion “on the same page?” Is there alignment around the task and the challenges that need to be overcome?
  2. Does the conversation remain focused on the task and the resolution of any challenges, as opposed to becoming personal, accusatory or punitive?
  3. Are those in discussion providing their perspective without fear of repercussion?