Respect is critical to positive relationships at work. It needs to be mutual between managers and employees, co-workers and colleagues. A respectful environment means that everyone’s voice is heard. People’s contributions are valued and everyone is treated with dignity. No one person is considered more important than others. People have confidence that others won’t undermine them when they aren’t present.
What happens if you don’t build a respectful workplace? You’ll find that the ramifications are serious. People are much more likely to leave jobs when they feel disrespected and undervalued. Conflict will break out often due to gossip, job dissatisfaction and distrust. Team members won’t be productive when they are distracted by workplace squabbles. As a manager, it’s your job to demonstrate the behaviors you expect from others.
Appropriate boundaries are an important part of respectful work environments. Managers and supervisors need to keep some distance from employees. It’s difficult when, at one time, the manager and the employees were at the same level and talked about their work openly. Managers have access to a great deal of confidential information and are also responsible for setting a professional tone in the office. They should always show respect to their employees.
It’s easy to set the wrong tone if you don’t pay attention to your actions. A manager can easily undermine a respectful environment by:
- Dismissing employee comments or concerns
- Being rude or sharp with people
- Talking about employees or other managers behind their backs
- Gossiping about the company, especially since the gossip may be pure speculation
Employees should learn to set boundaries as well. This is a good coaching issue for managers to address. Teams can fall into chaos when there aren’t boundaries. Workers shouldn’t badmouth management or team members. When they have concerns, they should talk with their managers about the best way to handle conflicts. It’s also important to avoid oversharing with others. For example, people shouldn’t constantly talk about their personal lives at work. This behavior can quickly lead to irritation. It’s also important that employees don’t undermine their co-workers behind their backs. They shouldn’t inhibit the success of others by withholding resources or making it difficult for people to do their jobs.
How do you ask for respect when someone isn’t offering it? First, examine the reasons for the lack of respect. There can be a number of contributing factors:
- You and the person have very different communication styles and get frustrated with each other during conversations.
- The individual has crossed a boundary such as gossiping about you, undermining your projects or displaying rude behavior.
- The person has always acted this way and no one has ever addressed it.
- You and the other person are in competition for promotions, projects and/or resources.
- The person is a high-ranking manager or business owner who doesn’t worry about respect in the workplace.
It’s difficult to deal with a situation in which you feel disrespected. You need to handle the situation delicately and it’s a good idea to ask advice from your manager or a trusted colleague. Don’t confront the person and accuse them of being disrespectful. Often, the actions that seem offensive to you may be the results of stress, cultural differences and expectations. Sometimes the problem is how you have treated that person in the past.
Approach the issue by talking casually with the person. Don’t set a formal meeting as if you are discussing a serious grievance. Ask the person for feedback about how you can work with him or her more effectively. Suggest ideas for making communication easier. It may be that you should only approach the person at certain times because he or she needs to concentrate. Other people may seem abrasive through electronic communications, but are very pleasant on one-on-one.
These strategies are effective when the problem is small. When it comes to competition, undermining projects or offensive behavior, a one-on-one conversation may make the problem worse. You’ll need to consult with someone more experienced to bring about resolution. Your managers may need to meet and draw clear boundaries about resources and responsibilities to minimize the problem. Other times, you may need to go this human resources for assistance.