July 23, 2019
Company Culture 23 February 2018
How to Build a Foundation of Respect in the Workplace
Phil La Duke
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“These millennials just don’t want to work.”  If I’ve heard this complaint once, I have heard it a hundred times.  I am not a millennial, but I have found that what millennials want and expect from employers is not all that different from what we all want and expect from our employers.  In fact, it’s the criterion for whether or not we consider our employer a good employer or a bad employer; whether a workplace is a place where we want to make a career or a placeholder until we find a better “fit”.  

What is this magic formula? What is this silver bullet? Respect!

It’s tough to labor long and hard for an employer, or even a boss, who doesn’t respect you or your work.  Maybe your work isn’t matching your bosses expectations, but unless your boss can respectfully articulate what it is about your work that is disappointing him or her, it’s impossible to improve or even please them.

Being respected in the workplace is more than an abstract concept.  When your boss (who, let’s face it, is our first and best indicator of how the company as a whole feels about us) respects you, it manifests in several ways:

1. Honesty  

We are honest with people we respect, and honesty is rooted in courage.  I remember a supervisor of mine coming to me with something I had written.  It wasn’t very good and I hadn’t tried very hard to make it good.  The subject was bland and boring and I didn’t like the client.  My supervisor asked me to join him in a neutral area and we sat down and talked.  He had my work in his hand and he assertively told me that this was not my best work.  He continued by saying that I was one of his best workers and one of his top, “go-to” guys.  He asked me what had happened to this piece that made it stand out so much against my other work.  We talked and I asked if I could take it back and rework it.  

I worked my tail off to create a piece that was well-done and worthy of not only my standards, but of the standards to which my boss had come to expect.  Instead of feeling as if I had been balled out I felt complimented, I felt good.  I felt respected.

2. Feedback 

Providing feedback is a key to communicating one’s respect for another.  A simple, “you did a really good job on that project, congratulations” can make you feel respected and valued, especially when you worked really hard to do a good job.  Many people expect that others will intuitively know that they are respected, but realistically if you don’t tell them and show them that you are respected how could they possibly know?

3. Attitude  

I have met employers, especially in Human Resources who derisively speak of their employees as essentially liars, cheats, and thieves. If you assume the worst of your employees and dismiss them as con artists who only look to work the system, the good workers will leave this toxic environment while the lazy, dishonest, and stupid will stay, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

There's no changing an employer of this mindset's attitude. You are not easily replaced, and if your boss feels that you are then he or she should give you your walking papers immediately and find someone else; you both would be better served if you went somewhere where you are respected and appreciated. 

Before accepting a position, try going to the website Glassdoor and hear what current and former employees are saying about working at the company before accepting a position.

4. Compensation  

I know too many talented professionals out the struggling to move out on their own, making subsistence wages and struggling to stay above the poverty level despite being degreed professionals with double income.  Give back to the people who make your company great and they will stay.  

If you respect my work, and if you value my work then you had ought to be prepared to pay me a competitive price for my work. Show them the respect of basic human dignity by not only giving them a fair salary, but also benefits that will protect them from life’s unexpected pitfalls.  

5. Protect me

My workplace should be a safe haven from sexual harassment, bullying (from my boss as well as my peers).  Treat me the way you would want a company to treat one of your loved ones.  Make human resources truly an advocate for workers instead of a mindless group of bureaucrats hell-bent on enforcing rules and writing people up.

6. Treat me like an adult and I will exceed your wildest expectations 

If you truly respect me, don’t be afraid to push me.  Give me stretch assignments and trust me to do the right things and make smart decisions.  I will most certainly need you to guide me, but when you do, treat me like an adult and I promise you I won’t disappoint you.

I really don’t understand why respect is so rare in the workplace today---it’s free, it’s easy, and it feels good---but whatever the reason employers had better wise up and wise up fast.  As the aging Baby Boomers shuffle this mortal coil, or at least leave the workplace, it leaves fewer and fewer qualified workers to take their places.  You can build a foundation of respect now or pay the price later, and that price promises to be dear.

Phil La Duke is an executive consultant, safety expert, speaker, blogger, trainer and business author. He speaks on organizational change, worker safety, and serves on the Wayne State Biomedical Safety Board. La Duke is the author of a  weekly blog and is also a guest blogger on an  Australian blog and  Monster’s company blog.

A complete list of his articles in Entrepreneur magazine can be found here and it wouldn't kill you to read and share a couple. https://www.entrepreneur.com/author/phil-la-duke. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke.