The Respect Factor

When tensions run high in the workplace, the issue of respect often rises to the surface. People become angry when they feel ignored, dissed, or talked to in negative ways. They don’t feel respected, and the resulting resentment seeps into many conversations and activities, whether or not relevant.

Being respected is more important than being liked. The two are not mutually exclusive – you can respect someone, but don’t necessarily have to like him. On the other hand, you can like somebody, but may not have respect for her. Think about it – would you rather work with a person you respect, or one who you like?

Leaders need to be mindful of the respect factor, because when disrespect creeps into the office environment, it can become viral. When this happens, life at the office can border on toxic.

Respect and “being the boss.” You may feel that being the boss entitles you to make sweeping decisions that directly affect people one or more layers below you. If done indiscriminately, your direct reports will think that you’re doing “end runs” around them, and you’ll lose credibility. No one doubts your authority – just remember to include the appropriate people in the decision process.

Respect and “being right.” Some people feel disrespected when others don’t agree with them. Clearly, there will always be disagreements in the workplace. When people feel this way, preface your opinion with “I respect what you’re saying, and I view this differently….” If you dig a little deeper on this one, the issue is really about people who want their opinions to be acknowledged (respected).

Respect and micromanaging. Sometimes employees interpret what we think of as management as an intrusion – that is, something disrespectful. Let your people perform their jobs. But also tell them about your managerial style, and that asking for updates, for example, doesn’t mean that you don’t respect them.

Here are some quick and easy tips that reinforce respectful behavior.

  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Acknowledge people’s contributions. If you value someone’s idea, but can’t implement it immediately, just say tell them so.
  • Value people’s time and the wisdom that comes from who and what they know.

And ask your staff what respect means to them – you’ll be amazed at the insights you receive.

Have a great week!

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