10 Tips For Earning Respect in the Workplace

by Lauren Schieffer, CSP


During a series of presentations, I became engaged in two different discussions on opposite sides of the same issue. The point that came up in both conversations was that of someone demanding respect, rather than earning it. On the first day, I had several admins 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 admin staff was not respectful to her as a supervisor.

I encouraged 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 also encouraged them to work toward earning their manager’s respect in return.

Here are some of the tips for earning respect I shared with them that day (all of which I also shared with the manager on the second day).

Be consistent

The quickest way to lose respect and credibility is 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, so do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

Be authentic

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

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, and that is 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. Manage your time effectively enough to be punctual.

Be willing to work hard

Set the tone and model the way with your work ethic and the tangible results you produce. Consistently prove through their willingness to “do the work” that you are reliable and trustworthy, and that you understand how hard everyone around you is also working.

Be willing to delegate to capable others

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.

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.

We 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.

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.

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.

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 coworkers. 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.

summit2019_headerCatch Lauren and other spectacular speakers at IAAP Summit 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland (just a short distance from Washington D.C.). Find out why IAAP Summit is the go-to conference for office and administrative professionals year-in and year-out.

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.
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