How This Seattle Company Is Creating a Workplace Culture of Respect and Civility

Team members at Blue Nile share their tips on how to create a workplace where everyone feels respected.
Written by Brendan Meyer
April 20, 2021Updated: November 9, 2021

It’s easy to say that all companies want to create a culture of respect and civility in the workplace. It’s a lot harder to implement it.

Respect and civility aren’t concrete numbers that are easily measurable. It takes conscious effort, more so than it does to test new software, integrate a platform, comb through data or make a great sale. Creating a culture built on respect and civility is about building a space where everyone feels comfortable speaking their truths — in an environment where those truths are respected and heard.

“It’s creating a culture and environment where all team members feel comfortable in expressing diverse opinions and that there’s a feeling that it’s OK to disagree,” Jim Pennella, Blue Nile’s senior director of international supply chain, said. “Building this culture is much easier said than done.”

Michelle Bland, a gemstone inspector at Blue Nile, agrees. She finds that small group get-togethers, whether it’s a meeting, a holiday party or a trivia night, helps to facilitate this culture.

“Respect and civility exist when people get to know each other on a personal level as well as on a professional level,” Bland said.

Built In Seattle caught up with a few team members at Blue Nile to learn more about how they’re creating a workplace where everyone feels respected. 


What They Do

Blue Nile is an online retailer of diamonds and fine jewelry, providing consumers with everything from engagement rings to necklaces. 


Jim Pennella
Sr. Director – International Supply Chain

What is the most important thing company leaders can do to promote and/or improve respect and civility in the workplace?

I think the most important thing company leaders can do is create a culture and environment where all team members feel comfortable in expressing diverse opinions and that there is a feeling that it’s OK to disagree. Building this culture is much easier said than done. The leadership team needs to foster and build this culture through their actions and behavior. They need to create robust forums and mechanisms for employee communication — both from the top-down and the bottom-up. They need to value diverse approaches to business issues, and recognize and reward employees that demonstrate these behaviors. They should also seek guidance and feedback across the organization on how best to address the issues faced by the business.


Michelle Bland
Gemstone Inspector

How are you tracking, monitoring or measuring employee sentiment when it comes to things like feeling respected, feeling empowered to speak up, feeling like their opinions are valued, etc.?

The best way we’ve done so is by creating the advisory council, which represents the suggestions and opinions of employees, and therefore allows us to monitor and measure employee sentiment. Also, written surveys have been a way to track and monitor employee sentiment.


Kevin Blum
Director, Human Resources

How have you created a culture where everyone — regardless of their background — feels empowered to voice an opinion and are confident that their opinions will be heard, valued and respected?

That advisory council to the leadership team empowers our team members to voice their opinions. This council is composed of employees across the organization from all different backgrounds, positions and levels. The council’s main purpose is to provide feedback, propose ideas and make recommendations to our leadership team around diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. Each member listens and brings opinions from their respective areas within the company, and in addition, we have town halls where everyone can voice their opinion.

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