Employees Don’t Care About Perks, They Care About Respect

One of my pet peeves is companies spending money on fancy offices full of workplace perks that are supposed to attract and retain the best talent. The tech companies would build office spaces offering on-site gyms, yoga studios, free meals prepared by top chefs, drinks on tap, game rooms, and all sorts of unpractical spaces around the office that look cool yet are not used much.

Such a space looks great and in the past may have even worked to attract talent, even though once people joined, they hardly had time to enjoy all its advantages due to heavy workload. With the post-Covid-19 push to return to the office, this topic will pop up again.

Does spending vast amounts of money on office space and various workplace perks work in the hybrid world where people won’t show up in the office in the first place? Is it something that will help to attract and retain the best talent? I would wager that as a marketing tool for attracting employees, it lost some of its power. As long as your office space provides the basics, is clean, is reasonably modern, and most importantly facilitates the hybrid style of work, you don’t need to worry about all the additional perks. Your work-from-home policy will be significantly more important to the candidates than what perks you provide on-site.

If you want to get people to spend more time in the office, then forget about the office perks and focus on the social aspects. People need to see a reason to come to the office, and having a game room is not it.

When it comes to retaining talent, I would question whether fancy office campuses ever worked in the first place. It may have been for some, but for the majority of the employees, it was always about getting things done in a safe environment and then going home. It was always much more about the job itself, about the people we work with and the general climate in the company rather than fancy office space.

It is all about respect

According to researchers, this became even more pronounced with the pandemic. After surveying more than 1,036 full-time workers, ages 21-34, from various industries and career levels, the message was pretty clear. Danielle LaGree of Kansas State University suggests that there is one thing employees care most about. Respect. LaGree talks about two types of respect. Respectful engagement is when you feel like being a part of the team doing a good job. Autonomous respect is then a feeling that you are respected for who you truly are. As the researchers found out, autonomous respect is especially important.

Similarly, Kristie Rogers of the Marquette University also suggests there are two types of respect. Owed respect is given to all team members for their work as a group and signals that everyone is valued and belongs. Then there is earned respect that focuses on each individual who displays the qualities and behaviors valued by the organization. It shows when people are valued for their strengths, talents, and the good job employee is doing. Once again, both are important.

A study by Christine Porath of the Georgetown University of nearly 20,000 employees showed the same. Employees value respect above everything else. Yet, they also report how widespread disrespectful behavior from their bosses and colleagues is.

Employees who are disrespected and on the receiving end of uncivil behavior react predictably, and both they and the company suffer. In a poll of 800 managers and employees from 17 countries, the researchers discovered that:

  • 48% of the victims of disrespectful behavior intentionally decreased their work effort,
  • 47% reduced the time spent at work,
  • 80% lost work time due to worrying about the incident,
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender,
  • 66% noted that their performance declined,
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization took a hit,
  • and 12% even left the organization because of uncivil treatment.

What can you do?

If you want to retain your employees, forget about office perks. Instead, invest in hiring the right leaders and creating an environment that doesn’t tolerate jerks and bullies. Nothing can beat having fulfilling work where people are being respected for who they are. No office perks can compensate for having a toxic environment where managers don’t treat their employees with respect.

Listen to what the employees are saying, value their diverse background and ideas, delegate important work, involve them in decision making, give them the freedom to work the way they want and as much as possible, offer them the opportunity to work on things that they care about, have their backs during critical times, and show interest in their non-work lives, so they know you care about them as individuals and not just as workers.


What is your take on the topic? How important is the feeling of being respected for you? What kind of respect is really important? Would you be willing to sacrifice some office perks and even a bit of salary to work in a team that would respect you as an individual?

Photo: StockSnap / Pixabay.com

Follow me on Twitter: @GeekyLeader

Check out my book Quiet Success: The Introvert’s Guide To A Successful Career



Categories: Career, Leadership

Tags: , , ,

1 reply

  1. I agree with the statement that the most important is to listen properly. Each one, each team, each company is different and with different needs and expectations. If you listen properly you find out what they need and focus on that part.

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