Career Development: Lost Respect at Work? by Captain George J Burk
Lost respect at work? A few tips on how to regain it.
Many of us have experienced it. First, it’s the extended lunches. Then, you notice the late arrivals and unexcused tardiness. Next, are the assignments that aren’t finished, not completed to specifications or seem to take longer than usual to complete. When you confront the employee(s) all you hear are the excuses: “I can’t” or “That’s not my job.” That’s your first outward example of a “Wake-Up Call” that you’re a leader who’s losing credibility and respect … and you figure out you need to make some changes … and quick.
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Benjamin Franklin
In every situation of which I’m familiar, regardless of the type of organization, when employees respect and trust their leaders and feel that respect and trust in return, you have a highly motivated employee(s) who are more creative and energized people who actually look forward to come to work every day. Every employee I’ve known, myself included, places a high value on a leader they can trust and respect and from who they can learn. That respect and trust is an important, intangible asset. You can’t touch it or taste it but you CAN feel it and you know when it’s there and when it isn’t in the workplace and in the relationship.
“Leadership is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” John Maxwell
If you need to re-establish yourself as a true leader who your employees and your leadership trust and hold in high esteem, here a few tips to help you reestablish that trust:
Appearances matter. Sometimes dress codes are taken to the extreme. It does seems odd to wear business attire when the company’s culture is T-shirts and jeans. Upgrade you attire to gain respect at work. Develop an approachable presence and internally and externally polished image. Look good … feel good. Don’t over spray with cologne or perfume to mask ‘stuff.’ You know what I’m talkin’ about.
“Appearances rule the world.” Fredrich Schiller
Establish regular feedback sessions with your staff. Leaders who don’t communicate regularly and openly with their staffs miss the opportunity to discover what people really think. Regular feedback sessions not only demonstrate how much you value their opinions, but you’ll also receive an objective, real-time assessment of their strengths and those areas that may need to improve.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” John C. Crosby
Trust demonstrated is trust earned. Empower your staff to own it. Encourage calculated risks and make sure they know you’ll have their back if things don’t turn out as expected. Trust them. Walk-The-Talk.
Watch your “pie hole.” Words and actions have consequences! If you believe from your intuition and subtle feedback from your staff that you do receive less respect at work, it may because your actions don’t mirror your words and vice versa. Words we use must always be respectful and clean, most discreet when it comes to personal issues and never openly criticize your staff. Praise in public and provide constructive feedback in private … with the door ajar … and with another person in the room with you … it is what it is … lesson learned.
“Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.” Plato
Know when to be quiet. Emotional tirades earn fear but no respect. Unless you’re one of those (all too many ‘leaders’) who ‘lead’ by fear, tirades may make you feel better but they do little to change the culture at work, except to make it even more toxic. Egg shells are designed to be broken at home, not walked on at work. Address sensitive work issues at a private, one-on-one level not letting your ego show and proudly exclaiming them at meetings and embarrassing the employee(s). The opposite philosophy is always true. When you praise and thank people for a job they’ve done well, always do that in public. Be generous and genuine.
“Nothing strengthens authority more than silence.” Leonardo da Vinci
Share your knowledge. As a leader, you have a great opportunity to be a teacher and mentor. The examples include work directly with a staff member to improve their written and/or oral communications or indirectly, when you lead by example. When you share your information and mentor others, you train and educate the organization’s future leaders.
“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Khalil Gibran
Suspend assumptions. Place any preconceived ideas you may have aside and really listen to an employee’s proposal with an unbiased perspective. If a conflict does arise, remain objective, stay fair, don’t show favoritism and provide the opportunity for everyone to succeed.
Remain involved. Said another way, get out from behind your desk and walk around the organization. Make the time and take the time to ask questions and then listen. Chat informally at company functions like an office party or get-togethers after work. Get to know your staff and encourage them get to know you. Leave your rank at work.
Be transparent. We’ve heard this many times of late. Change comes in many forms and many ways; some when not expected. When change is on the horizon, remain engaged with your employees and keep them in the loop as much as you can.
“One man’s transparency is another man’s humiliation.” Gerry Adams
Establish the limits (Boundaries). If after your efforts to change the dynamics and your team or staff remain disrespectful, or if one or two apples still spoil the barrel and rather increase their disdain, it’s time for more drastic action. Tell them their behavior is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. Explain the importance to maintain a civil level or respect and trust in the workplace. Then … document, document, document. This should be done as a routine practice, anyway. Then, at quarterly, semi-annual and annul performance reviews the behavior was documented and at your disposal.
“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has limits.” Albert Einstein
It’s never easy to regain trust and respect at work and with your friends and your family once those values have been lost. A good start is to have a high regard and respect for you … to love yourself but not be in love with yourself. Have that same regard and trust for your team and employees. Want to gain or re-gain trust and respect? Be trustworthy and respectful first. It’s inside out, not outside in … radiate and project what you want and expect outwards. This will most often encourage them to reciprocate.
“Men are respectable only as they are respected.” Ralph Waldo Emerson