"Respectful Treatment" Biggest Driver of Job Satisfaction, Says SHRM Survey

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 24, 2017

Being treated respectfully is a "very important" contributor to job satisfaction for about two out of every three employees, a new Society for Human Resource Management survey finds.

A random sample of 600 employees ranked "respectful treatment of all employees at all levels" higher than any of the other factors driving employee job satisfaction, including overall pay and job security. According to the report:

[Respectful treatment] encompasses a wide variety of challenges given that employee perceptions related to respect touch many facets of the workplace, ranging from diversity and inclusion to prevention of workplace violence and harassment. Building a company culture that explicitly welcomes respect and equality may be more difficult to stress if an organization has a homogeneous workforce or a strong emphasis on the hierarchy of job levels (i.e., substantial power disparities); these risk factors may make organizations more susceptible to creating an environment where harassment exists.

Although 65 percent of survey respondents said respectful treatment is very important, only 38 percent said they are currently satisfied with the level of respect in their workplaces.

In light of this disparity, SHRM recommended that employers:

  • Gain self-awareness and strive for improvement by, among other things, encouraging employees to "assess the impact their behavior may have on others and attempt to comprehend opposing viewpoints";
  • Consider implementing a civility policy and/or training, which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recommended for preventing workplace harassment (but also could result in liability under the National Labor Relations Act, as SHRM noted); and
  • Create bystander intervention training programs, which could "help change norms and attitudes, allow for a greater sense of empathy and diffuse responsibility to staff as a whole."

Top 10 Factors Driving Job Satisfaction

Contributors to Job Satisfaction Percentage of Employees Who Are Satisfied With a Factor Percentage of Employees Who Say a Factor Is Very Important
Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels 38% 65%
Compensation/pay, overall 26% 61%
Trust between employees and senior management 33% 61%
Job security 36% 58%
Opportunities to use your skills and abilities in your work 44% 56%
Feeling safe in your work environment 42% 56%
Benefits, overall 31% 56%
Organization's financial stability 33% 54%
Communication between employees and senior management 32% 53%
The work itself 41% 51%
Source: Society for Human Resource Management, 2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Doors of Opportunity Are Open.