At a glance
- A recent survey shows that 70 per cent of employers recognise “workplace dignity”.
- Employees who are focused on appearing “nice” are always agreeable, but if you want respect, you need to speak up.
- Part of respecting others is knowing how to disagree or challenge their view in a healthy way.
By Johanna Leggatt
Most of us would agree that being respected by our colleagues is important to us. However, building trust and admiration in the workplace takes hard work.
Networking and leadership expert Janine Garner, author of Be Brilliant: How to Lead a Life of Influence, says the respect of others is a tricky quality to manifest because it “requires effort as well as self-reflection”.
“It’s very different from being liked,” she notes. “Trying to be liked can perpetuate a focus on doing whatever you think needs to be done for approval, and that can mean not speaking up or doing what is right.”
Companies are also starting to appreciate the high value placed on respect, which is now seen as a fundamental part of boosting productivity and worker wellbeing.
The recent Willis Towers Watson Workplace Dignity Survey reveals that 70 per cent of employers recognise “workplace dignity”, which includes feeling respected, proud and valued, as vital to company success.
Support your colleagues
The fastest way to earn the trust and respect of your co-workers is to not “burn them” in front of others, says Martin Moore, co-founder of leadership development business Your CEO Mentor.
“Show that you’re not interested in the political games, but are actually more focused on the outcomes for the organisation,” Moore says.
“If you have a general demeanour that lets other people know you’re not driven by self-interest, that translates very well into trust and respect at the peer level.”
You also need to demonstrate that you are not just pushing your own barrow, but focused on the main goal.
“If you’re willing to put aside what you’re doing to help a team member’s project that is more important for the organisation, then nothing builds respect faster than that,” Moore says.
Garner adds that consistent behaviour is also essential for gaining respect from co-workers.
“People want to be treated the same,” she says. “You need to walk the talk, and when people say what they mean and their behaviour follows through with it, that leads to respect.”
Speak up, be you
Employees who are focused on appearing “nice” are always agreeable, but if it’s respect you’re after, you need to speak up.
“The ability to disagree with someone respectfully, even if they are more senior, is a great way to gain respect,” Moore says.
“It’s what people call ‘corporate courage’.”
Garner says people will also respect you if you are “courageously you, which is really tough”.
“People need to be courageous enough to bring their entire self – strengths and weaknesses – into the picture,” she says.
“When people are not being themselves, they are faking it until they make it, and putting up boundaries so they can be liked.”
Calling out bad behaviour when you see it is another important attribute.
“People admire it, because sometimes they haven’t had the courage to do it themselves,” Garner says.
“It’s hard, because being non-conforming is beaten out of us when we are kids, but you really do need to be the change you want to see in the world.”
CPA Library resource:
If you are in a senior role that involves managing people, you need to adapt your approach depending on who you are working with to gain their respect.
“Really good leaders don’t need to tell people what to do,” Moore says.
“If one of your people is immature or inexperienced, you may need to be more direct or prescriptive with them, but with people who are performing at the right level, you want to set broad parameters for them and work collaboratively.”
Garner says that your colleagues will also appreciate it when you are fair and honest, without displaying judgement.
“We unconsciously put people into boxes, so being able to be curious about where they are coming from is important,” she notes.
“How can you build respect if you don’t respect those around you?”
Once you have established trust with colleagues, it becomes easier to disagree or challenge their view in a healthy way.
“If people trust and respect you, there is nothing you can’t say to them,” Moore says.
“You can be open in a respectful way, so that delivering a hard message becomes easy, because you know that you’re communicating on that solid ground of respect.”
How to increase respect in the workplace
According to Your CEO Mentor co-founder Martin Moore:
- When managing colleagues, remember that a good leader doesn’t need to deliver orders.
- If something angers you about a co-worker, turn it into curiosity as to where they may be coming from, as this encourages empathy.
- Be consistent and do what you say you’re going to do.
- Admit when you are wrong.
- Speak up and disagree respectfully when you need to.
- Focus on the outcome for the organisation, rather than being ego-driven.