Are You Getting the Respect You Expect?


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You know, when I first thought about doing a podcast on this topic, the first thing that came to mind was – well in order to get respect, you have to give respect.  And that’s absolutely true.  But there’s a lot more to it than that.  So, if you’re feeling stuck, like people aren’t listening to what you say, or that they simply aren’t following your lead – listen on.

Now the first thing to get clarity on is what precisely does a lack of respect look like.  Oh, I’m sure we can all feel it when it happens – but in order to know what you need to address, you’ll need to understand some specific behaviors.

For instance, when you give one of your team members direction, you tell them what to do, and they simply don’t do it.  So, of course you then ask, why wasn’t it done – and you’re given some vague explanation that doesn’t quite add up.  Well, while that team member may offer up an apology, the fact is that  if this continues to happen, it’s a clear sign that the team member doesn’t respect your authority.  So OK, that’s one behavior.

Next, how do they talk to you.  Sure, it’s perfectly fine (and actually preferred) to have an open, approachable communication style.  After all, this isn’t the 16th century – we all recognize that we are people, real humans, with real feelings.  So, yelling, pointlessly criticizing and just generally being mean is a bad look, and won’t get you anywhere.

But, on the other side – how does your team talk to you?  Are they overly casual.  Do they say things to you that are inappropriate?  Are they aggressive or unprofessional?  Do they use profanity?  Listen, I can drop an ‘f’ bomb as good as the next guy; but I wouldn’t communicate that way to a valued client – and your team shouldn’t communicate that way to you.

Is there someone on your team who engages in gossip; or behaves in a disdainful way? Well yep – both of those are signs of disrespect.

…But, if you’ve done all these things, and you are still having challenges among some members of your team, it may be time to make a personnel change.

And remember – disrespect can be much more subtle.  A team member telling you, their manager, what they will and won’t do in a, shall we say – less than collaborative way.

Listen, it’s not that it’s just Mary, and sometimes she’s in a bad mood.  Or, you know Tim – he’s a little rough around the edges.  Or well – Sara can be a bit prickly.  It’s not just a personality response, these behaviors are a choice.  And the choice is to show you disrespect as a leader.

And while you might think – oh it’s no big deal, I can take it.  As a leader, you always have to remember that the rest of the team is always watching – they see what goes on, and it all sets a tone.  So 6 months from now, when you’re trying to figure out how and where things turned and now you feel like you have not authority at all – well just look back to those disrespectful behaviors from 6 months ago – the ones you didn’t address.

But how do you address it.  After all, you can’t force someone to respect you.  No – you have to earn their respect.  Well, here are some tips to help you get there.

First (and this will come as absolutely no surprise), you have to show them respect.  You can’t expect what you won’t give.  And you know, I’ve found that it’s easy to be respectful of someone when you genuinely care about them, about their wellbeing, about their growth and development.

If you focus on being a servant leader, someone the uses their position in service to the team – well, you’ll find yourself hard pressed to not care.  And when you’re in that mindset, it shows – other people see it.  And knowing that someone actually has your best interest at heart can really alter a person’s behavior – for the better.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur jumping into a leadership role, a seasoned business pro with new HR responsibilities, or just starting your HR career – we’ve got the right path to guide you through your HR hurdles.

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Another tip – be humble.  If you behave like Miranda from Devil Wears Prada, people will treat you that way.  Behaving in a way that trumpets that “I’m a superior person to you” is going to grow resentment, and sow the seeds of disrespect.

Oh, and remember – no matter where you fall on the org chart – no one is a superior person to anyone else.  We are all gloriously equal ….what’s that saying, pants on one leg at a time?

Another thing to keep in mind is consistency.  Strong leaders are consistent, people know what’s expected, and everyone is treated equally.  And something that goes hand in hand with consistency is being a firm leader.  When people think you’re a pushover, that’s what they’ll do….push you over.

You’ve got to learn to be decisive and stick with your decisions.  Now I’m not saying just stay, doggedly, on the wrong path – no, if you have to change you mind because you now have more information, then absolutely do it (actually, that’s a sign of being a firm leader too).  But, if you just flip flop from one perspective to the next, over and over again – that’s going to damage your credibility, people will doubt your judgement, and respect goes out the window.

Demonstrate trust – when you show that you trust your team, you don’t micromanage, you have their backs, you practice patience – well, that builds a lot of respect; and really shows your leadership chops.

But, if you’ve done all these things, and you are still having challenges among some members of your team, it may be time to make a personnel change.

I know, it feels like you’re wading into the deep end – but leadership, true leadership, can be difficult sometimes.  And a true leader simply will not tolerate insubordination after a sustained effort to earn respect.  We’ve all seen it, how one toxic employee can impact how the rest of the team sees you as a leader.  Sure, there are a million reasons in your head to do nothing – you’re not sure if you can remove them, who will take their place, will it even make any difference.

OK, as a card-carrying HR professional, of course I’m going to tell you to sit them down and have the proper discussions, and document them.  Of course I’ll say be sure you aren’t engaging in retaliation or any type of discrimination.  Sure – there are a whole host of things I could tell you to look out for – and that’s why you’ll run everything by your labor counsel.  But, I’ll tell you one thing – you can’t be an effective leader if you put up with disrespect.

I’ll say that again – you cannot be an effective leader if you put up with disrespectful behavior.

It undermines your authority, teaches the rest of the team how to treat you, impacts your ability to get things done, and damages your reputation among your colleagues.

It’s just bad all the way around.

And besides – if someone is so unhappy to be a part of your team; do them the favor of letting them become part of some other team.

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