The Role of Respect in the Workplace

Respect is powerful. Knowing you’re respected by your employer, employees or co-workers likely empowers you, affects your work ethic, and is critical to staying driven and inspired by your position.

Respect is kind of a funny thing. We all expect it, but yet we can be so selective when giving it to others. The important thing to realize here is that it is a multi-level item. The first level is sort of a common decency that is expected in the workplace across the board. This can be achieved in simple ways like showing up on time, taking responsibility for your actions, having the same work ethic you expect from others, and treating everyone equally.

The second level of respect is earned. This is typically when employees start to get a little possessive. When this gets mixed in with the first level, people get treated unfairly, and tensions are high as both sides generally feel unheard.

This level should really be performance-based. We all want our respect to mean something, and in turn, might withhold it along with treating people poorly. Belittling or demeaning another person as you wait to see how their work performance lines up with your expectations will only drive that person to resent you. They might perform well initially trying to gain your approval, but if they continue to feel disrespected and unappreciated for what they might consider to be a job well done, they will become burnt out very quickly.

You don’t have to condone anyone’s minimal efforts to show everyone respect. Focus on maintaining that level of treating everyone right and equal and then if and when someone stands out, by their work efforts, communication skills, etc., that’s when they gain that earned level of respect. Bring attention to even small successes in your office so that all employees can see that you are recognizing strengths and not just weaknesses.

As an employee, that second level of respect will look differently than it does for your employer. On your first day, you should plan on treating everyone, especially those you’ll be reporting to, with utmost respect as you cultivate trust in those relationships. Having mutual respect amongst co-workers does not mean you have to get along with everyone…it means you are willing to work well together. As for earned respect, while it may naturally occur with certain people, it doesn’t hold as much weight. Your focus instead should be doing your job well enough that you are earning others’ respect. This solidifies your position in the company and could even lead to a promotion in time.

Employees: Don’t expect special treatment when you’re doing what’s expected of you. Employers: Create a culture in your company that recognizes extra efforts. And overall, it boils down to the rule you’ve heard since you were little…treat others the way you want to be treated.

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