Disrespected Employees Are Quitting. What Can Managers Do Differently?

New modes of working require managers to adapt the ways they signal respect for employees.

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In a changing world of work — one in which remote and hybrid arrangements are now commonplace — how do leaders show respect for employees?

This question is top of mind for employees, whether managers recognize it or not. According to a recent Pew Research survey, employees who quit their job in the past year reported feeling disrespected as a leading reason, after low pay and lack of advancement opportunities. When employees do not feel respected, they leave, and it’s up to managers to address this problem.

As researchers specializing in respect, workplace relationships, and virtual work, we recognize that respect at work is needed more than ever. Ironically, though, the ways for managers to effectively show their remote employees respect seem to be less clear than ever because the typical signals of respect that research prescribes largely necessitate in-person interaction. Indeed, most of the signals that managers are told to give are subtle, easier to provide in informal settings, and often contagious to others when everyone is in the same physical space — all conditions that are more difficult to replicate in virtual settings.

In this article, we draw upon our own published research focusing on respect at work and remote work relationships, as well as the broader literature on these topics, real-world examples, and findings from a qualitative, open-ended survey that we conducted. (See “The Research.


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