Yueng-hsiang Emily Huang, PhD, Oregon Health and Science University; Yimin He, PhD, University of Nebraska Omaha; W. Kent Anger, PhD, Oregon Health and Science University; Anna Kelly, BA, Oregon Health and Science University; Elisa Rega, MM, Oregon Health and Science University; Angela Garabet, MASc, Oregon Health and Science University; Jin Lee, PhD, Kansas State University; Ted Courtney, MS, TKC Consulting LLC, Harvard University; Jessie Zhen, MS, Oregon Health and Science University, Cornell University; Jamie Pockrandt, BS, Oregon Health and Science University

Our project aims to develop and validate a Respectful Workplace Climate Scale to support the goal of fostering, promoting, and measuring a respectful workplace culture and climate in the workplace.

We want to help organizations build and maintain a respectful workplace culture. This relates to how much respect is perceived by employees from the company, their managers, and their co-workers. An organization with a respectful workplace culture experiences trust between people; is free from harassment, discrimination and racism; and actively prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion. We extend the organizational climate literature by incorporating the new attribute of building a respectful workplace. Accordingly, we conceptualize the Respectful Workplace Climate as employees’ shared perceptions of an organization’s policies, procedures, and practices as related to building a respectful workplace. We began scale development using construction workers as exemplar. This study (Phase I of the project) gathered information from construction Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in order to bolster the level of understanding, shed light on the need for research, identify prevalent unexamined safety and health issues in construction, and support the generation of practice-based solutions in terms of building a respectful workplace.

In order to develop a reliable and valid respectful climate scale, we will utilize a mixed methods approach with both qualitative and quantitative methods. The current study represents Phase I of the project. Our team conducted an extensive literature review on the topic of building a respectful workplace. We further conducted 10 semi-structured interviews (each about 60 minutes in length) with construction Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Information gathered through interviews informed researchers as to potential issues and solutions pertaining to how to build a respectful workplace for construction workers. We inductively analyzed the qualitative data derived from the interview questions and classified them into different themes. Some examples of the interview questions are: What does a respectful workplace look like or mean to you? Do you feel that you work in a respectful workplace? Do you feel that workers in the trades typically experience a respectful workplace? What are some things that could get in the way of building a respectful workplace? Do you have any specific suggestions on how to build a respectful workplace?

The 10 interviews we conducted with SMEs in the construction industry included tradeswomen, tradesmen, supervisors/foremen, a union representative, the president of a construction company, and safety and health personnel/safety engineers. The participants represent a diverse population including Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, men and women, with an age range from 20 to 60+. The preliminary qualitative analysis revealed potential constructs and criteria for the Respectful Workplace Climate Scale and tangible organization-, supervisor-, coworker-, and individual-level suggestions for building a respectful workplace. Some common themes identified in the interview data included interpersonal conflicts, displays of racism, sexism, micro-aggressions, hazing, and gender role biases; feelings of isolation, anger, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation; experiences of job insecurity and low work-family balance. The preliminary analysis revealed several strategies identified by the SMEs to facilitate a respectful workplace: (1) Organization-level: supportive policies, procedures, and practices; front-line workforce access to Employee Assistant Programs, mental health and healthcare services, workforce training on unconscious biases, mental health awareness, and communication competency; and multi-level organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in all activities such as recruitment, selection, and promotional decisions to ensure representation and inclusion at all levels, (2) Supervisor-level: supporting and modeling respectful and healthy behaviors, discussing work-family balance behaviors, and recognizing and intervening with improper behaviors, (3) Coworker-level: providing instrumental and emotional support; modeling tolerance, inclusion, and positive communication, and (4) Individual-level: voicing concerns, seeking help when needed, and connecting with local unions and trades-groups that provide community and support.

The issues and strategies identified throughout the interviews for Phase I of the project indicate the critical need for further research-to-practice efforts to generate tangible data-driven, solution-oriented methods to measure and build respectful workplace climates and cultures. This report addresses Phase I of our project. We provide insight on this topic based on the literature review and analysis of SME’s responses. Phase II of the project is to develop and implement a survey of the initial items generated and conduct further quantitative data analyses for scale validation (examining and demonstrating further reliability and validity).

The current study presents the preliminary findings of Phase I of a project utilizing a mixed methods approach to developing a Respectful Workplace Climate Scale. We are following robust scientific practices when developing this scale. The identified themes will be the key foundation of the scale’s measurement model. The long-term goal of this project is to help companies build a respectful workplace by developing a psychometrically sound Respectful Workplace Climate Scale that they can use to gauge the status of respect in their workplaces and the progress of interventions implemented.

Tags: Applied research, Communication; Translation; and Dissemination Methods, Construction, Hazardous Work Environments and Safety, High Risk Jobs; Vulnerable/At-Risk Populations, Prevention / Intervention Methods and Processes, Research and Intervention Methods, Research Methodology, Safety Climate; Safety Management; and Training, Workplace Injuries and Illnesses