Fostering high quality connections through respectful engagement

By: Jane Dutton

Dutton, J.E. Fostering high quality connections through respectful engagement. Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter, 54-57, 2003.


“You’ve sweated to prepare a grant report, working hard to make the case that your largest foundation backer should continue providing support. Your nonprofit desperately needs the grant renewal, but this time around, the competition is unusually stiff. You’ve put in late nights. Lots of coffee. You can’t help but feel nervous as you enter a meeting with the foundation program officer.

The officer acknowledges you with a distracted nod. Seemingly preoccupied, he asks you to start your presentation. While you’re talking, he barely makes eye contact. When you finish, he offers a perfunctory “Nice job” – though you’re not even sure he’s heard you.

If these scene sounds familiar, you are not alone. For many organizations, disrespectful engagement such as this is the norm. The extent of incivility in the workplace is disturbing: 90 percent of respondents in one recent poll believed workplace incivility was a serious problem, and 75 percent of respondents in another survey said it was getting worse. According to another study, one-third of 600 nurses had been verbally abused during their previous five days at work.”