Conversations for Change: Fostering a Culture of Respect, Inclusion, and Engagement

Creating an inclusive workplace culture with highly engaged team members is only possible when an organization is built on a foundation of respect. This interactive online session will review the dynamic relationships between respect, inclusion, and engagement. Join nationally recognized Author and Speaker Dr. Paul Marciano to explore how we can all forge more inclusive cultures, using research-based tools designed to create highly collaborative and productive organizations.


Catherine Ashcraft: Hi, everyone… and welcome to our last week of NCWIT Conversations for Change; online thought leadership series. My name is Catherine Ashcraft and I am the director of research here at NCWIT and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the series which features a diverse range of speakers with diverse perspectives and hopefully thought provoking ideas and worldviews. And, of course, we wouldn’t be here today without the support of our sponsors so I want to thank them for supporting the work that we do and I also want to thank you, the viewing audience, in advance for your attendance, questions, and of course your patience should we experience any technical difficulties. So here’s the layout. In a moment I’ll turn it over to Dr. Paul Marciano who we are very excited to have here with us to speak with us about connections between respect, engagement, and inclusion. He will speak for about 40 minutes or so with interactive polls and questions to the audience. Then we will open it up for broader Q & A. But as in past sessions, you don’t have to worry about waiting to send your questions. Please send them ahead of time or as you think of them using the Q & A feature. We will do our best to answer as many as we possibly can. Finally, there will be a short pop‑up survey at the end as you exit the webinar. So, we ask that you take a moment to complete that. So with that, let’s get started.

Very excited like I said to have Paul Marciano with us today. He is the leading authority on employee engagement and respect in the workplace and has worked in the field of human resources and organizational development for more than 30 years. He earned his doctorate from Yale University and is the author of the bestselling book Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of Respect. Paul’s upcoming book, Let’s Talk About It: Strategies for Turning Confrontation into Collaboration, helps individuals restore relationships that have deteriorated due to interpersonal conflict, and especially in cases where individuals feel disrespected. Paul is committed to spreading respect in the workplace because it is both the right thing to do and because treating people with respect leads to extraordinarily high levels of employee engagement and bottom line business results. So with that, I would like to welcome Paul and turn it over to you.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Catherine, thank you so much. And, greetings from Three Bridges, New Jersey, 50 miles from New York and 50 miles from Philadelphia. Although we only have one bridge, we’re ambitious. I hope wherever you are, that you and yours are well. I want to thank Catherine, Brad, and the rest of the NCWIT team who have been committed to putting on this conference, pandemic or not, and thank you for inviting me to participate. I’ve got a lot to go over today; as Catherine mentioned, we are trying to save time at the end for some questions, so please feel free to submit them as they come to you. And, I would actually like to begin by posing a question to you. So, if we could have the first poll put up, please. So, I would define my organization as having a highly inclusive culture. Please respond “Strongly Agree”, “Agree”, “Disagree”, or “Strongly Disagree”. Give you about 30 seconds to do that and then we will have the results.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Well, there’s good news and bad news, as there usually is in any poll. So, it looks like about half of you would agree with that statement. But then more than, yeah, half, and then, but a significant percentage would disagree. And I would encourage you that, as we go throughout the presentation, if your culture is not one at the level of inclusiveness that you would like to see it, that you think about the material and think about how can you apply it, how can you put what we talk about today on the playing field for yourself and your organization. I am figuring out — there we go.

So, for me, organizations are — the most significant contribution is to help their employees flourish. And, they have to be of certain culture, which includes respect. When organizations fail to have a culture of inclusion and respect, obviously, there’s a withering, there is a lack of flourishing that goes on. Now, respect is a very interesting concept to me. It hopefully is because I’ve spent the last 15 or 20 years talking about it. One of the reasons it’s particularly interesting is because it’s one of the very first abstract constructs that we learn as children, usually taught by our parents and grandparents, although today, I think that probably there would be a TikTok that would also teach it and my seven‑year‑old finds it hysterical when I accidentally say “tik TAK.”

So, respect can become very complicated, but, lets start with a simple definition and that would be: admiration for someone or something. Now, respect, obviously, it’s spelled differently in many different languages, I am very fortunate because Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work has been translated in many, many languages, and that just points to the importance of respect in the world. So, it doesn’t matter what country you are from, what culture you are from, how respect is manifested behaviorally, it certainly changes but there can be no doubt that it matters. And we are going to go over now situations in which respect is a core part of societies, and of course in America, as in many other countries, you learn to respect the flag. So, starting in elementary school, when we say the Pledge of Allegiance, to when we go to sporting events and stand for the national anthem, and then along came Colin Kaepernick who took a stand by kneeling in support of people of color who were being oppressed by our society. And, while I certainly, and I think most would respect our veterans who served our country, certainly not everybody would agree with the morality of going to war, especially the Vietnam War. Or conflict, I guess. We certainly have learned to respect our cultures and the elderly. And, at the same time, we should learn to respect the younger generation and their ideals. For those of you who are of the younger generation, watching today, this is an iconic photo from Woodstock. Of course we always have been taught to respect traditional families and, now we need to learn to respect modern families and, I will also share a picture of a good friend of mine, Erika, who, herself, was adopted and now gets to give Chloe Anne an amazing loving home. We are taught to respect our religious traditions, although typically not the religious traditions of others, including those who have no religious traditions, who can actually feel ostracized at times for having to check a box representing that they are not affiliated. We certainly all respect the first responders and our heroes particularly during this time, as well as teachers. There can be no doubt of that, although I had to share with you a headline that I saw last week about — I’m sorry — let’s try that again — that teacher appreciation all they wanted was respect and all it took was a coronavirus pandemic and worldwide economic collapse to get that. We were, as children, all taught, hopefully, to respect our toys and the toys of others. And perhaps most importantly, to respect ourselves. I’m a quote-aholic and I’m going to share a couple, a couple of them with you during the presentation, here is one by Fyodor Dostoyevsky — “If you want to be respected, the great thing is to respect yourself.” And, by Jackie Robinson, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” If you don’t know Jackie Robinson, he broke the color barrier in baseball.

Now, for many people, being respected is more important than being liked. And, I’m going to ask a question and hopefully people will respond. Why do we care so much about being respected? Take a moment to think about that and respond, please.

Catherine Ashcraft: Do you want them to put the responses in the Q & A feature?

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah. Is that possible? Will Brad be reading some of them off? Or —

Catherine Ashcraft: I can read some off or you can read some off directly if you look in the Q & A.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Ok, got it.

Catherine Ashcraft: So go ahead and put your answers in the Q & A.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Got it. So and — I apologize for this, Catherine, can other folks who are participating, can they see the Q & A or only us important people?

Catherine Ashcraft: I’m not sure. I think they can see the questions and the answers.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Ok. So — let me — I’ll scroll through some of them. Thank you, for those who have contributed. We are getting lots of good answers here.

So, respect, you have earned some level of expertise. Can inclusion be asked without referencing race, gender, others? Opinions, like the first poll we took reflects an opinion, but just below the surface, I think you have to look at respect triggers. Yeah, absolutely. We’ll answer — we will speak to that in a little bit. It’s interesting, I stopped saying the entire pledge in high school. The words do not reflect my experience as an African American female — I’v had complaints filed by my coworker about my freedom of speech — it is disrespectful to require teachers to say the pledge. Yeah, I also struggle with that quite frankly and certainly think it should be optional. Respect validates my being. And I am going to — that’s an excellent entree into the next slide. So thank you for all who have shared. So, why do we care so much about being respected? And I would respond, it is when you are respected, you are viewed as having value to your community and organization. So that when you say something, people listen to you. When you have value to your community, you are protected. It’s when we are viewed as not having value, that we become expendable. So I think this is at very much the core of our existence. Hopefully most folks out there are familiar with Aretha Franklin and her great song “Respect” and her “find out what it means to me” line. And, what I would ask is — what does respect mean to you? And, similarly as we just did, using the Q & A, please respond to the question. More specifically, what are some examples of respectful workplace behaviors? And one of the things I’ll share as you respond to that is for obviously many years, as I presented workshops on respect, and asked folks — is that important to you in your company? Everyone of course would shake their heads “yes” and then I would ask, so what does that actually look like in your workplace? And I was actually amazed that people couldn’t really say a lot about that. So, that while it was very much agreed upon as a concept, how you actually put it on a playing field was not particularly well thought out. And one of the reasons I wrote Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, that does contain many examples of how we do that. We are going to go over a little bit about the book in a few slides.

So, picking back up on the Q & A, and again, thanks, everybody, for sharing. Going down — yeah, so I see some of the absolute core ones. Listening and really considering someone’s suggestions, opinions. Malia, thank you. That’s absolutely at the core. Being included in decision making on issues that directly involve you. For example, admin including teachers in decisions. I, myself, and perhaps many of you can relate to times when decisions have been made for you in a job, without any input at all. And quite frankly, that is not the advice that we would have given to our managers. In some cases I know of even — decisions that were made that inhibited me from being more effective in my job. Participating — so there’s something very much about having your voice being heard. And, notice that a lot of these responses, what we are talking about, is breaking down the hierarchy in organizations so that, at every level, and this is an issue of inclusion, people are feeling heard. Consider the feelings, listening without judgment, there’s the golden rule of course, treating others as we would hope to be treated. Looking people in the eye. Catherine, this is such a good list, we are going to have to save it. In fact I think it would be great if we could save it and even pass it around afterward. Share with the listeners. Yeah, lots about getting input. Suspending judgment. Yeah. Excellent. Really great.

Now the question is — are we actually doing that in our organizations? Ok. So, now, the Respect Model. So, as I, my dissertation was actually on motivation. And, so, I came to learn, tried to figure out, what was really motivated people. And, as I began to look at all the different theories, and to draw lines and connections and tried to distill the different theories, what it really came down to was this issue of respect. And then I wanted to understand what led individuals to feeling respect in the workplace. And if you can go through your head very quickly the answer to the following questions — if you think about a time when you really respected the organization that you worked for and you said I was proud to work for NCWIT, you think about times when you respected your manager or the leadership of that organization. And then if you thought about times when you respected your colleagues, your co‑workers, the team that you were on. And I know I’m going through this far too quickly for you to actually create it. But, hopefully you will come back to these questions for yourself. Fourth, a time when you really respected the work that you did, you found it valuable and meaningful to yourself and others. And then finally, a time when you felt respected as an individual within that organization. And then I asked the question which is — have you ever held a job for a moment in time for which all five of those aspects of respect were simultaneously true? And, if I were to poll an audience of 100 people, maybe four or five people would raise their hand. There would always be smiles on their face. And when I said what was it like for you to go to work, they would say “I loved it” or in eastern Europe, they say “I liked it very much.” And when I asked did it have anything to do with money, the answer was invariably no. Although money can certainly serve to demotivate people — it typically doesn’t engage people. So let me then share with you the factors that came out of my research.

First, for me, when I talk about respect and the Respect Model, I talk about it in terms of being an actionable philosophy which guides and directs behavior. So, you might have the philosophy of being an environmentalist. But, if you throw plastic out, then you really aren’t. You may call yourself a philanthropist, but if you don’t actually give up money and time, then it’s not really meaningful. So when I talk about respect, I mean that there’s a philosophy of respect, but then there are actions that you engage with that align with that belief. So I always — that’s what’s really critical for me. You know, any time you have a belief, your actions have to align, or it’s just meaningless. And so, as we talk about the idea of respect, as well, it’s about who you are always being as a person. You know? And it’s not as though — it’s like integrity. There aren’t, ya know, times that we choose to show respect and times that we don’t choose to respect. It has got to be an all‑the‑time concept. Now, the respect model drivers. Again, I can give whole workday — workshops on this. But very quickly, so, the acronym — Recognition. What does it take for people to feel respected in the workplace? First, we all just want to be fundamentally recognized and acknowledged for the contributions that we make. By the way, again for any of you that may have ever gotten like a sticky note from your boss that said hey thanks, great job, I ask people traditionally what they do with such a note. And the response is invariably that they kept it, maybe they taped it up on their computer monitor, it fell off, they taped it up again. And I just want you to consider for a moment how a note that took a second or two seconds to write, cost absolutely nothing, and how much meaning that had. And quite frankly, what a sad statement that is about how little recognition acknowledgement we must get in the world for something like that to be meaningful. We certainly don’t hang our paychecks. Second is Empowerment. Giving the people, you know, truly the tools, the resources that they need in order to be successful. I think the people that we empower the least and set up for failure are first line supervisors and managers who are promoted to those positions for reasons that have nothing to do with being successful. They are promoted because they are really good at turning the wrench, whatever that might look like in an organization, programming, whatever it is. Because certainly they do have a good work ethic and tenure and maybe an advanced degree, but not necessarily because they are really good at fostering teamwork or delegating and managing and coaching. So I don’t know how many of you may agree with that, but I find that to be very true. We just don’t empower our supervisors or managers to do the best that they can. And then we end up actually even demotivating the staff. So, providing supportive feedback. You don’t ever have to give negative or critical feedback again. All you have to do is give constructive feedback. Coming from a place of sharing and caring with the other person. In fact, this is one that I find so many managers struggle with. Giving, as they call it, critical feedback, but really feedback from a place of I care about you being successful, the team being successful, our organization being successful. And, if you come from that kind of place, you can tell anybody just about anything. The book that Catherine mentioned Let’s Talk About It — actually focuses in — the whole book is pretty much about this topic.

Partnering, so developing collaborative working relationships, again, breaking down that kind of a hierarchy, where people at any level, their opinions matter. The second “E” for setting clear Expectations. And holding people accountable. The C, demonstrating Consideration. And this goes obviously beyond please and thank you, but starts there. I certainly find that any time that we can demonstrate consideration for people when they have health, family kinds of issues, of course we are seeing thankfully particularly now lots of organizations showing consideration for employees, and hopefully that will continue. And then Trust. I mean, trust is such a fundamental concept. And I think about it as I do a piggy bank. So, over time in our relationship, it’s as though I put a nickel in, you put a dime in, and we have these shared experiences, we build up this level of trust. And then, if anything happens, perhaps I hear you saying something behind my back, it’s as though we drop the porcelain piggy bank and it shatters into a thousand pieces and it’s extremely difficult to put back together again. If we, if we do, it’s really never quite the same. And quite frankly, it’s often the case that it’s better for somebody to move on. The way this can look in the workplace is when a manager loses trust of her people and it results in micromanaging, and of course when we micromanage, it absolutely kills people’s initiative. So you’ve gotten the entire Respect Model in three slides. It is that respect leads to engagement. The more that we feel respected in our organizations, through those seven factors and others, the more that we engage. Whenever we experience disrespect, we disengage. Psychologically, emotionally, and oftentimes physically. In fact, if you were to think about the last job that you left, voluntarily, it may have had to do with this issue of a loss of respect.

So Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work. There are — there is 50 years of research that demonstrates that motivational — traditional employee motivation techniques are not only ineffective, they actually cause an overall decrease in employee morale and productivity and quite frankly it’s really not up for discussion, because there’s so much overwhelming evidence. It is so incredibly frustrating to me when we continue to see even the most basic program, like “reserved for employee of the month,” one of my favorite stories is a gentleman who received this but rode his bicycle to work. I don’t mean to offend anybody who may be listening if you have this kind of a program in place but it is absolutely one of the worst offenders of traditional reward recognition programs and absolutely will lead people to feeling disrespect and then of course as a result, disengaged.

So, there are 20 reasons that I offer in Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work about why traditional reward and recognition programs are ineffective and I’ll share with you number one and number 20. So, I would like for you to imagine — well, if you know anybody, maybe yourself, who’s ever been on a diet, the question becomes, for how long is a diet effective? And the answer to that is, for as long as you are on it. Programs fail because, in fact, they are programs. And so, traditional reward recognition programs put in place provide a carrot for people. It leads them to have temporary changes in their behavior in order to get the prize. But, when that program goes away, the level of motivation actually decreases to baseline and sometimes even below baseline. And, number 20, we went very quickly, I want you to imagine three buckets. Into the green bucket, place your high performers. Maybe you have five, 10, maybe 15% of your top performers there. In your yellow bucket, your average performers, and then in the red bucket, the lowest of performers. Now, if we start at the right and ask the question what impact would a reward and recognition program have on the folks in the red bucket, the answer to that would be none. So that is just another example of how disenfranchised they are. And how they are losing with the organization. The folks in the green bucket, you know, these are the individuals who are giving what they really already have to give. They are like the student who might come up to me and say, you know, Dr. Marciano, I got a 98 on my test and I would love to get a hundred. We love those students, we love those employees. But if you consider that these employee motivation programs that cost money, right, you expend resources on them, the idea is to increase the overall morale and productivity of the organization, it really can only have little impact on top performers. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to pay attention to them and that they’ll be rewarded in some way. However, the problem with these programs really falls in the yellow bucket where you have the average employee, those that you may want to be increasing their level of discretionary effort, and they’ve made some attempts to win at the game, but they don’t win, because the people in the green bucket win. And then ultimately they become demotivated as a result. By the way, I do think that we spend far too much time and energy trying to deal with employees in the red bucket when we should really be trying to work with folks in the yellow bucket.

The other quick comment that I want to make is that everybody who begins a new job, we begin with the best of intentions. So people don’t begin new jobs disengaged. We come with a readiness to engage. And so, and I believe that all of us want to be successful. So, a question that you should be asking is — if employees start out from this place of readiness to engage, and they start to decline into the yellow or even red bucket, what’s caused that? And of course my response is respect.

So just one more distinction. So motivation, I think there’s this concept that we should be winding employees up and then we get them going. They run around fast and are really productive. The problem with that is then it gets you into the game as a manager of always having to wind up employees, and that’s not the game we want to be in. In fact we know from research that, when we provide people with extrinsic rewards, their level of intrinsic motivation actually decreases. And in contrast, the idea of engagement. So, people that are, you know, these are people more aligned to being internally motivated but engagement, gives you that sense of being in it for the long haul. So, when the waters get choppy, people stay on the ship and they row harder. If you’re coming from the mindset of being motivated or not, then you might actually jump out of the ship. So, in terms of my work, we’re not even good at figuring out how to motivate employees. Which is good. Because that’s not actually what we want to be doing. It’s really about how to engage employees.

So, employee engagement, a quick definition: the extent to which an employee is psychologically and emotionally committed to his or her work, organization, team members, and customers. A fairly traditional kind of definition, but I do want to make one comment and that is, most definitions would stop after the word “work.” It is important to recognize that there are different targets of engagement. So that people could be highly engaged with their work, for example, but not with the organization overall, or the manager, which isn’t even on this list. People could be highly engaged with their customers, but not so much with their team members. So, it is important we speak about engagement and think about measuring it to understand that there are multiple targets. For me, engagement is all about being demonstrated behaviorally through discretionary effort. I think about the great Pele. Obviously, not all team members are going to have this level of skill. But what engagement looks like to me is everybody is giving their full effort. Lots of research about why we care about engagement. So, going through that quickly, high levels of engagement are associated with greater productivity and performance, publicly traded companies show greater profitability. Retention, attendance. When people are engaged they actually show up to work and they stay at work. You know, people will ask, gee, I want to do an employee engagement survey. I have 15% attrition. I said you don’t need a survey. You have an engagement problem. Increased levels of innovation and creativity with greater engagement. Conscientiousness and honesty, customer satisfaction loyalty, quality, safety compliance, and physical and psychological well‑being. Everything that we care about in terms of organizational vitality comes along with engagement. I apologize, I am — there we go. Not seeing my whole screen. There we go. Satisfaction and morale. And by the way, satisfaction and morale is different than engagement. But that’s another conversation. Engagement spectrum, just recognize that not — there is a spectrum, so not everybody’s all on one of these five buckets. But it’s helpful just for the sake of thinking about that. So, you know, the actively disengaged and disengaged are on the red side. The “Peles” of the world are actively engaged. As I mentioned before, if there is a loss of engagement, then you want to think about why that is and then how do we help to get folks more back to the right of that.

Now moving on to an inclusive environment, so, here’s a wonderful quote from Catherine Ashcraft and Brad McLain, “A place where all members can thrive, feel a sense of belonging, contribute their abilities and perspectives to the work at hand and receive credit and recognition for these contributions.” Now, when you think about inclusive environments, what is required? Well, first would be soliciting diverse perspectives. Clearly if we are not doing that we cannot be considered inclusive. Recognizing that the experience of inclusivity depends on whom you ask. So, very individualized, which makes the research in this area somewhat difficult because of the subjectivity of the nature. Of course that’s what makes it so important, as well. Paying particular attention to the experiences of historically marginalized populations, especially in terms of gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and abilities. And then addressing systems of power, privilege, and bias that hinder this goal. And finally, I would like to share with you a summary chart. So, if we think about exclusion factors, unconscious bias, by the way, one of the things that is certainly frustrating, obviously lots of organizations for inclusion, diversity, teach unconscious bias training. Actually that is a section of that included in the new book. Unfortunately, it doesn’t turn into an actionable philosophy, so to speak. It’s actions are obviously not consistent over time, once we have identified those biases unfortunately. It comes out, as usual, to people being accountable.

Power dynamics in relationships. Organization structures and processes and everyday interactions. So, these are the kinds of factors that lead people to experience being more disrespected in the workplace versus inclusive factors such as ability to thrive, sense of belonging, ability to contribute, and to receive validation and recognition. So, obviously you can see that built in here are a number of factors related to respect. And then finally we have the disrespect and respect feeding into the engagement. So, the person on the left‑hand side, the more disrespect, the less engagement that’s present. And then of course we always want to think about the culture of an organization. I’ll share a quick funny story. I grew up here in central New Jersey and the culture of New Jersey is something like, if you leave me alone I’ll leave you alone. Now I went from there down to a small college, Davidson College, outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a very, very friendly place to be. On my first day, there I met a nice elderly lady who invited me to her house for milk and cookies. If you were to walk by somebody on the street and did not say hello, that would be considered rude. So, I went from there up to New Haven, Connecticut. Yale, where I lived for six years, and if you said to people walking down the street, hello good morning how are you, they would clutch their small children. So obviously there are differences, in terms of global cultures and within the United States. But the point I would like to make is also that there are different cultures within your own organization.

And so, as you think about these factors relating to respect and inclusion and engagement, understand that they all contribute to the culture, but then the culture also influences how those behaviors show up. You know, culture is so important because it drives behaviors and attitudes, and those behaviors and attitudes reinforce the culture. I do want to make the point that culture should really be driven by core values of your organization. And I often encourage companies to look at the extent to which that’s true. Is their culture aligned with the core values? And, with that, I’ll stop with my favorite quote: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” So, it’s, I think, quite simple for people to, you know, point out the mistakes of others and the way that things ought to be and should be. It’s very easy to do that. And what I encourage people to do is to always be the change that they want to see in the world.

Some contact information, I know this slide deck will be made available to you. The great thing about doing a presentation over Zoom is that I cannot tell how many people fell asleep. I can also not tell how many people stayed awake. I hope that you certainly enjoyed and got something out of today’s presentation. And Catherine, I know that we are going to have some opportunity I think for Q & A, and so happy to do that now.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yes, great. Thanks so much, Paul. And yeah, just so you know, there are about 250 people on the call. So, thank you all again for joining us and sending in your questions. And thanks for those opening presentations, Paul. We do have a few questions here. I’m going to start with this one, this one is actually something that you talked a lot about in kind of preparing for this session and you touched on a little bit. It was going back to the point about, can inclusion and respect really be talked about without referencing race, gender, and other kinds of identities? And, this person points out that opinions like the first poll we took reflect an opinion, but just below the surface I think you have to look at respect triggers. And, so — we talked a little bit about that. It was also part of the, I think intent behind some of the initial slides you showed with the flag, for instance, and the person’s comment earlier about not saying the pledge of allegiance and how those are multiple layers and different views of respect embedded in there; whereas the flag signals respect for some, it signals disrespect for others, and that in some ways, like the slide you showed, taking a knee is a sign of respecting the country whereas others see it as a sign of disrespect. So all of that complicating this view. And so, I don’t know if you have more that you would want to add to that.

Dr. Paul Marciano: You know, I present respect as a very simple concept, construct, and the relationship with engagement. And, I believe at one level it’s simple and not rocket science. But, on another, it’s also incredibly complicated because of exactly what you said and the person shared, which is our interpretation of respect varies so much. I’ll give you a quick personal story, a company that I worked with over time. One day I walked in and I walked through, past a number of cubicles and to the HR manager’s office and she said Paul, I have something awkward to share with you. I said what is it? She said well a lot of the people — some of the people here don’t feel like you are being very respectful. And, of course there’s about nothing worse that you could say to me. And so it came out that people were upset because I was walking by and I wasn’t saying hello to them in the cubicles. Well of course my take on that was — I wasn’t bothering them. And that’s just a very simplistic example of how behavior can be differentially interpreted. And certainly if you think about traditional Asian cultures, the relationship with managers and subordinates and how that goes — So, I think what’s important is in organizations is to have authentic conversations about what respect looks like. And to also, by the way, not go to the first place in your mind automatically of, they are being disrespectful, but have conversations about it. You know, there are a few factors I will just share that I think are absolutely universally viewed as respectful. That is listening to other people and hearing their opinions. You know, and caring about people. So I think there are some core factors. But also particularly when it comes to things like inclusiveness, there’s an awful lot of subjectivity, individuality.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah. In fact, that’s kind of what you were also touching on in the slide where it showed the exclusion factors that affect disrespect but some of those exclusion factors like bias, dominant cultural norms affect our views of what respect looks like and also who is able to attain it or who is easier to attain for some and others not so much. So I think those are all really important to keep in mind in having those authentic conversations like you are talking about. So another question, this is interesting, how does — this I think is getting at the different stages of an organizational life cycle, so it’s like start up versus more established companies. How does implementation of respect pair with this state of a cycle of an organization — this person is supposing — that startup companies might be more respectful than organizations where they have already achieved consistently successful results. A certain sort of model, an established model, so that people who started with the organization talk about how things used to be and — norms like that.

Dr. Paul Marciano: So if I am understanding it, there’s something to honoring I think and respecting the past. But then also respecting what’s happening going forward. Not sure exactly the question, but — you know, one thing that I would say is, it probably is the case that the larger an organization grows, the more problems with respect that show up. And I think that’s because there is a loss of, you know, connectivity among people. You know, I always say that it’s a bad sign when an organization gets to the point that somebody walks into a lunchroom and somebody else says — who is that? And the other person says oh, I think that’s the new guy. As soon as we get to that size in the organization, I think you risk less respectful behaviors. One of the things you get into is siloing. Once you get the silos, it’s much easier to then talk about the marketing is like this, engineering is like this, accounting is like this. And of course, the ultimate of all of that, quite frankly, is the idea of social media where we are completely disconnected, at least on a physical level. I’ll go back to, again, for me, respect should be a core part as a value and something that people are held accountable for. And the other thing I’ll say, one more thing on this that’s really really important is, particularly if you are a manager and have a new hire, when I have somebody come to me, I would say, you know, the most important thing to me is to always treat you respectfully. And, if I ever do or say anything that leads you to believe otherwise, my request is that you bring that to my attention so I can clean that up. So really starting right from the bat fostering that, that respectful relationship.

Catherine Ashcraft: Great. And, here’s another really interesting question. And this also goes to power dynamics I think a little bit. In Utopia, everyone being respected is a wonderful idea. In a world where being disrespectful is directly tied to gaining and/or maintaining power, if that’s the norm in the org, the idea of respect is a marketing plan whose implementation is diametrically opposed to the concept of maintaining power. So why — Outside of rhetoric or marketing, would I change that dynamic if I am already in power?

Dr. Paul Marciano: Well there’s a lot there. I guess I am naive, I guess I live in Utopia. When you work for yourself, I guess it’s somewhat easier to do that. I just think you do it because treating people with respect is the right thing to do. I think it just comes down to, it’s a core basic value and, if you are — I would like to think, and again I know it’s easy for me to say this, Catherine, I would like to think that if I was in an environment that almost required me to be disrespectful to remain in power, that that’s just not a place that I would want to be.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah, I think this also maybe goes to some of your points about the connection between respect and engagement though, to the extent for people not being motivated about it being the right thing to do, for those in power, if it is inhibiting the engagement of their employees, that is the rationale for them to —

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah, I’ll say one more thing, too, is… You know, people are promoted in organizations because they have initiative, which is great. It is one of the most important things I look for. Sometimes initiative then turns to assertiveness. And then as you move up sometimes assertiveness turns to aggressiveness. And by the time that the person is on top of the mountain or close to the top, there’s not a lot of people telling them differently. So that is kind of a trajectory that I see in organizations as to why there becomes some level of disrespect, is people don’t end up caring as much about other people’s feelings as they get closer to the top, unfortunately that’s the way it often is.

Catherine Ashcraft: And of course then who gets labeled aggressive and assertive and whether that’s a positive or negative and whether you gain respect for those traits is also complicated by social identities, as well, which I think goes back to your point about authentic conversations being and always interrogating, what we like to say at NCWIT is a spirit of inquiry when talking about what respect looks like and means. So I think we have time for one more before the official close. This one is referencing the curse of competency. Asking, how do you address the curse of competency where folks doing well are given more of the workload or more projects? Would love for you to address this from an employee perspective but also as a manager perspective, to avoid burnout of these employees.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah. So, in the respect model when I talk about expectations, you know, I talk about the fact that we reward our best employees by giving them more work. And unfortunately what happens is people do get burned out. And, in fact, they also end up having less time to give attention to what their core responsibilities are. At some point they look behind them and they see, you know, Johnny, who’s not pulling his load, and they get demotivated and they get upset. One of the important things I want managers to recognize is that when employees see that the managers aren’t holding people accountable, that actually they lose respect by their very best employees. So, you know, there is the curse of competence. I think that it’s important — when you are viewed as having respect and you are seen as valued, people should not forget that they also have leverage in the organization. Right? Respect means you are viewed as having value and you are protected. So I have rarely seen the case where a great employee went to their boss and said, Boss, um, I love this place, I love working for you, I got too much on my plate. And I’m going to start dropping balls and the quality of my work is going to diminish. You tell me, how do I prioritize the work? I just think that goes back to having a really straight conversation. Let me just say, and Catherine let me acknowledge that I’m saying all of this, obviously I’m not in their situation so I don’t know all the specifics of it. But at the end of the day, I think all you can do is have straight authentic conversations with people.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah, I was going to say a theme that comes out in a lot of the discussion around some of these questions and concepts you are talking about is about those authentic conversations and is a good segue to your upcoming book, talking about how to have those kinds of difficult conversations. So thank you so much for being here. I’m gonna do the official close but I know you are going to hang on and answer a few more additional questions for those who can stay. But thank you for joining us so far, Paul. And for those of you who have to go, just a few reminders and housekeeping details. Please join us for our next conversation this Wednesday evening from 5:00 to 6:00 Mountain Time with Dr. Ruha Benjamin. And, her presentation is titled Race to the Future: Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology and Society. She will be exploring discriminatory design and bias in algorithms and challenging us to think about the tech, in light of these ideas and these biases, think differently about the tech that we create and also consume. And also remember when you exit this Zoom webinar, you should see a short pop‑up survey for you to complete and so as you know at NCWIT, evaluation is very important to us and we take this feedback seriously. So, please take a few moments to complete that. And again, thank you to Paul for today’s conversation and to all of you who attended and, a final thank you to our sponsors and also to all of the behind‑the‑scenes people making this session possible including our Q & A monitors, our event staff, and the research team and NCWIT leadership. So thanks everyone. And, I will come back to some of the questions that we have here, Paul. Someone here is asking how do I manage “up” so to speak, to create more respect in my organization when I am in the bottom of the organization ladder?

Dr. Paul Marciano: I’ll answer that very simply. You prove yourself. You — probably a lot of people out there, Catherine maybe you and I and Brad will remember the MASH episodes. But, you remember Radar, and Radar was always — he made himself invaluable to the colonels that he served. And honestly, you know, the more you are valued, the more you are respected, the more upper management listens to you. I know it’s a simple answer, but it’s also one that’s very true.

Catherine Ashcraft: Mm‑hmm. And another person is wondering on how you might transfer this to sort of other contexts, especially those who are educators. So wondering how you are adapting your model in particular for educators, particularly in post‑secondary. If you have any thoughts on what this can look like in the classroom.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah. So, I’ve worked with a number of different teachers and school systems and obviously thank you for what you do. And, I have to say that I think it’s gotten so much more difficult, Catherine, in the perspective of teachers getting, you know, beat up by parents and not feeling often that the administration has their back. You got to give me an easier question, by the way, next. These are tough questions. I don’t know. I honestly — I don’t know what you do. It’s so hard and I feel so much for teachers. My friends right now that are dealing with that. I think all you can do is to create as much as possible, a core respect in your classroom. I’ll share a very quick personal story. My great aunt was an elementary school teacher for about 40 years. And, she always taught the children that respect is so important. In her classroom, respect was a core value that she taught to, whatever, seven‑year‑old kids. And that included always showing respect to the janitor who would come in. It’s a true story I promise. She retires, and several years later gets a letter from an attorney. And this janitor has passed away. He had no family members. And he left his 401(K) to her. And, it’s just, I know that, we don’t always understand and appreciate the power of showing respect to other people. And I’ll share one more story, if you don’t mind. I was in New York a couple years ago. At the Port Authority in New York. Maybe some of you have been there. It was late in the afternoon. I needed to wait for a bus because there aren’t many buses that go to Three Bridges, New Jersey. I had something to eat at the local restaurant. The server was wonderful, he was just one of these incredibly positive, energetic, engaged guys. I always have so much respect for somebody who does, you know, a great job no matter what that job is. And at the end, he brought me the bill and I signed it and said hey, John, thanks so much for the great service, your positive attitude. You really made my day. And then I saw as he walked up to the cash register, and he opened it and you could see he did a double take, and he went and he showed it to his colleague, you know, the maître ‘d, who said to him, “That’s really nice. You should keep it.” You really have to let that register. Because it’s so sad to think that a simple note from a total stranger would be worth actually showing to your manager and that person saying you should save that. It’s so nice. One of the points for me of that story is that every single day we have the opportunity to thank somebody and let them know the contribution they are to us, and the world would be a better place if we did that.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah. And there’s a couple of questions here that relate to sort of more specific aspects of respect. In particular, and I don’t know if you have thoughts on this or not, but, particularly in tech, there’s often this sort of bro culture or alpha culture and, this person is wondering if you can comment on sort of how respect might intersect with that culture or difficulties that might create, or any thoughts you have around that. The culture and how it dovetails with respect. Or complicates it.

Dr. Paul Marciano: So there’s this alpha culture and I’m assuming what you are saying is then that, marginalizes people that are not part of that, sort of, the group?

Catherine Ashcraft: I think that could be one way. And also, that sometimes those sorts of styles of communication don’t necessarily come across as respectful, often, or other kinds of styles of communication that might be seen as respectful are not valued in an alpha culture.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah, I think, you know, again, these systems or processes or cultures are established. And it’s not easy to deal with them. I know Tony Shay. I believe, when he sold a company before he sold Zappos, someone asked why did you, why did you sell it. He said because I lost control of the culture. But I would never do that again. And so for me, when I go into organizations, the first thing, there has to be an acknowledgement that the culture isn’t what you want it to be. Oftentimes it’s around, they call me in because it’s around the respect issue. And then it’s to have an honest conversation about, you know, what is the level of respect that’s shown? And are there things like an alpha culture and how does that show up in the organization? How does that lead to marginalizing other people or making them feel, you know, a step down on the ladder? I think it would be very hard for any one individual unfortunately to impact change in a culture unless there was somebody again that was near the top of that. And so, you know, it’s unfortunate when you get to a culture with only a few people who are strong and controlled and they do dominate without some sort of a revolution, that’s probably not going to happen, or union walkout. It is hard to make changes. I go back to, just me personally, be the change you want to see in the world. You know, just be that person and do what you can to promote positivity. Try not to complain and be negative about it.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah. We also have a couple of questions on — we had a speaker on ageism earlier in the series and this is also particularly relevant to tech and building off the alpha culture specific to tech. But ageism as it operates in tech and if you have thoughts on how ageism complicates respect.

Dr. Paul Marciano: And Catherine, how would you see that showing up for technology companies?

Catherine Ashcraft: Oh, just that, you know, ageism is a problem I think in general, an often overlooked problem in society at large and particularly now in this Covid era it’s more apparent as narratives around aging are sometimes brought up, sometimes disrespectful to elderly. In tech in particular, I think it’s accelerated often, as fast paced. Aging technology and things become outdated and people value, tend to value youth and — if you are — elderly or — older —

Dr. Paul Marciano: It reminds me of sort of the — we had that image before, the Indian culture and honoring and respecting our elderly in general. And, again, it’s got to be part of — I know I keep coming back to this. Like I’m almost beating on a drum or avoiding the question — but if you have a culture in which there’s this ageism, you’ve got to change the culture. And it does start with one individual impacting another individual and at some point saying, you know, this isn’t right. Like, this is not the environment that we want. This is not who we are supposed to be about. And I mean I have seen instances in which, you know, newer employees or, you know, those having entry‑level jobs will write to the CEO and president and the founder and just share with them personal examples of what he or she is seeing. And just saying this is not the kind of company that I thought I signed up for. And sometimes, something like that will actually spark, because it, maybe the owner’s gotten disconnected but will spark a discussion or some sort of commitment from that individual and I do think that there is a lot of value to unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion training. I really do. And, it’s — and people do have to be held accountable for it, as well. And I have seen situations in which that’s done very well. You know, one that I know, a new leader came into a company that was horribly managed, where it was a sales organization, if you made a lot of money, you got away with whatever you wanted. I mean it was horrific. And the new leader came in and said to one of the worst offenders, you know, Al, I’ve heard a lot about you and none of it’s good, and the behavior will not continue or you will be gone. And the — and Al called his bluff, and he was gone. The amount of respect that that had and the impact it had on the culture of the organization, was extraordinary. And some people stayed on and changed their behaviors, and other people left. It’s always so wonderful to see that kind of leadership come in and say respect matters and that’s how we are going to run our culture because that’s what we do. I think that’s what great leadership looks like.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah. That definitely highlights the importance of leadership in establishing that sort of culture or norm. And a few of the other questions related to, there were some people that talked about accountability and how holding people accountability — or accountable in a culture of respect. So, do you have more to say about practical ways people could do that?

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah. So I mean one of the things I really like, Johnson and Johnson was a client of mine. You know, most people know their credo, statement of their values and mission. And, one of the things that happens is the presidents of each company as part of their annual performance review, is that they are assessed by their employees, I hope this is still true, assessed by employees on the extent to which they actually live those values. That’s the way it should be. Your bonus, your compensation is based — hopefully you aren’t doing it just to earn a bonus, but that’s a good way to hold people accountable. To actually assess them on the extent to which they are serving as role models for those behaviors.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah, and that also brings up another interesting point about, back to your carrot and stick kind of critiques of those approaches and wondering if you could say a little bit how psychologically anyway, respect is it different from any other kind of carrot or reward that you might get dangled in front of you.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah. I mean well, because respect is different because it absolutely goes to the core of who you are as an individual. Respect will, I’ve never seen a case in which somebody said oh! I’ve got too much respect here. You know, I mean I have seen stories where people have gotten too many coffee mugs but never, I’ve got too much respect. So you never actually lose — I’m blanking on the word but — it’s never that you have so much that it doesn’t matter anymore to you. It’s wonderful because, it can be given morning, noon and night to anybody at any time and always has impact and meaning. You know, I’ve never met anybody, I think, Catherine, who said that respect doesn’t matter to them. And it matters a lot. And I do think it goes back, even if it’s unconscious to the psyche of survival, if you’re not respecting you’re viewed as not having a value and you are expendable to your community. It’s a great question I’ve never gotten before. Thank you to whoever wrote that in. But it is so fundamentally different and none of the other programs ever speak to — they speak to your behavior but they don’t speak to the core of who you are as a human being.

Catherine Ashcraft: Right. So the other kinds of carrots are more artificial or external.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah. Situational.

Catherine Ashcraft: Right. And, I think we have time for maybe one more. And, we maybe touched on this a little bit. But, maybe not from this angle. What is your recommendation for people when they are not respected, intentionally?

Dr. Paul Marciano: You know, over the years, unfortunately, I’ve had people the day after a workshop or presentation, have reached out to me and said that they had gone into the office and quit. I actually had a woman once in the middle of an all‑day workshop come up to me at lunch crying and saying I realize now why I feel nauseous driving to work. And how I am being treated and I can’t do it anymore. And she left. So I think, you know, I think first of all it goes back to the slide also of looking yourself in the mirror and saying, I don’t deserve to be respected by this, Like this. My advice to people is to stand up for yourself and to say what you have to say. Especially if you get at the point of which you think — look, if you are miserable and are thinking about quitting, honestly what is the downside to going to your boss or whomever and saying, I don’t feel respected by you and I would like to share why that’s the case. There’s no downside at that point. You know? I think there’s a chance that the other person might apologize. They might say I didn’t realize that, I’m sorry. And even if they say, you know, I don’t care, at least you’ve said what you’ve had to say. That, I think, for our own self-esteem, I think that’s a really good thing. So, yeah, if you are not feeling respect, I think you know, don’t say woe is me. Speak up. You know, have that difficult conversation.

Catherine Ashcraft: And of course if you are not at the point where you are ready to walk out or can’t afford to do that, I wonder if there are other — if there are sort of intermediary kinds of things, a colleague or, get to find someone to help advocate.

Dr. Paul Marciano: Yeah, here’s another thing you can do. You can go to — I’m using a boss example here. Right? So, you go to your boss and you say — Are you really dissatisfied with my work? And so presumably the boss would say no. Let’s just say they say no. Then you would say — ok. I would like to share with you why I asked you that question. I asked it because you made this critical comment, or you did this or you did that or you didn’t do this or you didn’t do that. That’s the only question that I have found so far, and I would love to hear other people who could offer others, but that could open up a conversation and like a nonthreatening way about feeling disrespected.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yeah. And that brings us back to our favorite motto at NCWIT about employing a spirit of inquiry.

Dr. Paul Marciano: That’s great.

Catherine Ashcraft: Always a good place to end. I want to thank you again, Paul, for joining us and for all your thoughts and reflections on this important topic and the connections to inclusion, and thanks for being here.

Dr. Paul Marciano: You’re very welcome, Catherine. Thank you for the opportunity to share with everybody.

Catherine Ashcraft: Yes, and thanks to all of you and I hope you all have a great afternoon.

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