A helpful way to conceptualise respect is to consider the opposite – workplace incivility. This is “low-intensity deviant workplace behaviour with an ambiguous intent to harm.” (Schilpzand et al, 2016).  In a word, it is ‘rudeness’, and is in many ways the antithesis of respect.  Examples at work include talking down to others, making demeaning remarks, not listening to somebody, checking email or texting during meetings, and belittling others (Porath and Pearson, 2010). Its impact is massively destructive to individuals, organisational cultures and the bottom line (Porath & Erez, 2011). Ways in which to counter incivility, and foster respect are to develop the EQ skills of Empathy, Emotional Self-Awareness and Interpersonal Relationships. 


Is “recognising, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel. Empathy involves being able to articulate your understanding of another’s perspective and behaving in a way that respects others’ feelings” (MHS, 2011). A team high in empathy is unlikely to be disrespectful or harsh towards others, as they are consistently entering into the world and experiences of those around them. When you empathise with someone, you tend to show them greater respect and kindness, as you know a little more about what it is like to be in their shoes. 

Emotional Self-Awareness

Includes “recognising and understanding your own emotions. This includes the ability to differentiate between subtleties in one’s own emotions while understanding the cause of these emotions and the impact they have on your thoughts and actions, and those of others” (MHS, 2011). A key component of this is a growing awareness of how your own emotions impact others. This could look like being ignorant of the impact that your frustration and anger in a meeting was having on your team. But growing in emotional self-awareness would help you understand how deeply connected you are to those around you and the sensitivity they might have to what you are feeling.  

Interpersonal Relationships

Refers to the “skill of developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships that are characterised by trust and compassion” (MHS, 2011). The better your team knows one another, and the great shared understanding they have, the more likely they are to be respectful towards one another. Oftentimes incivility and disrespect are rooted in a lack of trust and an unwillingness to know “the other”. In a study of approx. 20,000 people, Porath and Gerbasi (2015) found respect was the leading behaviour that encourages greater employee engagement, indicating that as a leader, cultivating mutual respect within the interpersonal relationships you share with your team is imperative.