Ten Tips for Earning Respect in the Workplace

During a series of presentations I gave last week, I became engaged in two different discussions on separate sides of the same issue.  On the first day, I was presenting to general staff members and on the second to the organization’s leadership team.  The point that came up in both conversations was that of someone demanding respect, rather than earning it.  On the first day, I also had several staff members who felt they could not respect their manager for various reasons that they spelled out to me.  On the second, I had a manager (yes, the same manager) who felt her staff was not respectful to her as a supervisor.

I admonished the staff members on the first day to treat their manager with respect, regardless of whether they feel any genuine respect for the person.  Furthermore, I encouraged them to re-open their minds and acknowledge what their manager is doing well.  I suggested they give their manager the opportunity to earn their respect from here forward.

I have often encountered persons in management who assume that respect should come automatically as a result of their position.  This is a short-sighted leadership vision.  Positional respect is shallow and temporary.  Meaningful respect does not come by virtue of the position one holds in a company or in the American Business Women’s Association.  True, significant respect can’t be demanded; it must be earned.  Titles don’t automatically inspire respect. Although I don’t necessarily have to have respect for the person behind the title, I was taught by The Colonel to be respectful of someone’s position of authority or responsibility. Genuine respect isn’t something a subordinate is forced to give their manager. Respect, trust, and loyalty are all things that must be earned over time. Being a respected leader requires an awareness of one’s actions and being accountable for the effect their influence has on their staff and the organization in general. 

Here are ten tips for earning the respect of your employees, co-workers, and supervisors (some of which I shared with the manager on the second day).

Tip Number 1:  Be Consistent

The quickest way to lose respect and credibility to say one thing and do another. People will pay attention to and believe what you say until you give them a reason not to. The wise philosopher, Anonymous, said that integrity is consistently doing what is right because it’s right – whether anyone is looking or not. Respected leaders consistently do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. Being consistent also involves providing a dependable reflection of the organization’s values and principles, leading by example in these areas for their team.

Tip Number 2:  Be Authentic

The most respected leaders are those who are comfortable and confident enough to be themselves all the time. That makes their executive presence genuine and true. This allows those around them to feel valued and comfortable to initiate a dialogue (even an uncomfortable one) regardless of hierarchy or title.

Tip Number 3:  Be Punctual

Making someone wait, especially repeatedly is a fine way to lose their respect permanently. There is only one completely finite commodity on the planet: time. When you are late, and cause someone to wait for you, you are robbing from them something they will never be able to get back. Missing appointments are being late demonstrates a complete disregard for the value of the other person’s time. Not to mention it is simply rude. Manage your time effectively enough to be punctual.

Tip Number 4:  Be Willing to Work Hard

Being in a leadership position doesn’t mean that you get to sit back and relax while others do the work. Respected leaders set the tone and model the way with their work ethic and the tangible results they produce. They consistently prove through their willingness to “do the work” that they are reliable and trustworthy, and understand how hard their team is working.  Ultimately the leader defines the performance culture (good or bad) of the entire organization.

Tip Number 5:  Be Willing to Delegate

Respected leaders are always thinking about making others better. They allow their team to take on responsibilities that give them an opportunity for growth. They appreciate the unique skills and talents of everyone on their staff and find ways to discover the best in people to enable their full potential. They mentor their high-potential talent, imparting wisdom and helping lay a path for long-term success. And they give each member of the staff the authority confidence to carry out the tasks given to them without hovering or micro-managing.

Tip Number 6:  Be Committed Educating Yourself Daily

Once we stop learning, we start dying. A leader doesn’t have to know everything, but it is important to stay on top of trends, legalities, and changes in the organization and industry. It is also important to understand that sometimes that education will come from those we lead and be open to learning from your team.

Tip Number 7:  Be Willing to Admit When You’re Wrong

The simplest way to being right consistently is number six above, continuously educating yourself. Do your homework and communicate facts that are well researched and well thought out. However – no one is right ALL the time. You may have to make a “best guess” now and then. The Colonel always said, “If you’re not wrong some of the time, you’re not trying hard or risking enough.”  When you are wrong, it is crucial to admit it in a confident, yet humble manner. Acknowledge what you have learned from the experience and move forward.

Tip Number 8:  Be Willing to Allow Others Their Dignity

Respected leaders never force proof that they are right at the risk of humiliating someone else. If there is a way to resolve a question or situation without pointing fingers of “wrongness” at someone else, that is always the best option. Disparaging people who have made an error will reflect more poorly on you than on the one who made the error and destroys any possibility for that person to trust you in the future.

Tip Number 9:  Be behind the team, not in front of it

The best leaders are cheerleaders for their team. A leader’s recognition comes with the accomplishments of their team. Respected leaders are not recognition junkies, requiring all of the credit. Genuine leadership involves knowing the people you serve and giving them the guidance and inspiration they need to be able to shine. A leader is trusted, admired and respected when they make it more about the advancement of others, rather than themselves. They share the harvest of the momentum they build with others.

Tip Number 10:  Be supportive, not competitive

Respected leaders are quick to express gratitude for the efforts and contributions of everyone on their team. They earn respect when they reward and recognize their employees and co-workers. They take the time to appreciate and understand each person’s uniqueness – the way they think, act and innovate. They are always looking to enable that talent. There is a saying I heard in Texas once, “If a turtle is sitting on top of a fence post, he didn’t get there on his own.” Respected leaders understand that they did not achieve the position they’re in on their own. They received support and mentoring from others and give that back to others in kind. Someone else’s success does not discount them or their success in any way.

Twenty-first century, employees have SO many examples and reasons to not trust an organization and their leadership, and yet, they are hungry to find leaders who are worthy of their respect and their loyalty. Earning those things isn’t easy, but when leaders make an effort and find the right path, the entire organization is transformed as a result. Ultimately, the respect you receive will not be garnered based upon your degrees, your sales numbers or your title, but rather based on the positive and personal impact you have created, one person at a time.

References (2)

  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln: Management Department Faculty Publications: “Leadership – Current Theories, Research and Future Directions”: Avolio, Walumbwa, Weber: 2013
  • The Work Style Magazine: “Earning Respect at Work”: Lisa Quast: 2012

About the Author, Lauren Shieffer, CSP

As the daughter of a career Air Force officer, The Colonel’s Daughter, Lauren Schieffer, CSP gained a profound independence and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The lessons she learned from “The Colonel” have helped her make smart decisions and overcome adversity with humility and a sense of humor.  Lauren helps global audiences communicate respectfully and avoid unnecessary conflict. She has spoken in seven countries, to Associations, organizations, federal, state and local governments, and Fortune 500 companies.