Nearly every time someone says the word “respect,” a few things come to mind—namely Aretha Franklin and Rodney Dangerfield. What rarely comes to mind—but always should—is workplace relationships. Respect among colleagues is a powerful connection, and without it, things can get pretty difficult (not to mention miserable).
So, what do you do if you, as Mr. Dangerfield used to say, “can’t get no respect” in the office? If you’re feeling like you’re not getting the appreciation (or assignments) you deserve, try these tips.
1. Build a Reputation
Whether it’s with clients, vendors, or colleagues, your reputation will always precede you, and working hard to build a great one is a surefire way to earn respect in the office. After all, we all know respect is something that’s earned.
Several years ago, I worked on a small team in a small office. Each of us mostly worked independently, so it was sometimes difficult to get a sense for what each person was working on, let alone how hard they were working. This was especially the case when we had someone new join the team—we’ll call him Bob.
Bob recognized immediately that it was important to establish respect within the team, but because none of us worked directly with one another, he had to go about it a bit differently. Fortunately, Bob was a rock star at his job, and by treating clients, business partners, vendors, and colleagues professionally and with respect, word soon got around that Bob was the cat’s pajamas. Bob never had to say a word about it—but rave reviews from everyone who interacted with him showed the rest of the team he was pulling his weight. As a result, he quickly won us all over.
It’s hard to ignore results, and when you’re striving for the respect of your colleagues, one of the best things you can do is show you’ve got the right stuff. Soon, you’ll find you have the respect you’ve earned.
2. Make Allies
Even if you’re doing everything right, there may sometimes be colleagues who seem impossible to win over. And when you just can’t seem to get an ounce of respect from a particular colleague—or colleagues—it’s time to call in cavalry.
Several years ago, when I worked for a large bank, a new woman—we’ll call her Sally—joined the marketing department. She was young and lacked the years of experience held by the rest of the team, which automatically gave her a bit to prove. From the start, my manager had his doubts about Sally’s abilities. Whether it was by dismissing her ideas in front of the team or just excluding her from meetings completely, our boss made it clear he didn’t respect our newest employee.
While it would’ve been easy for Sally to feel singled out, she decided to fight back. And, by fight back, I mean she started to make friends. When Sally realized my boss would be hard to win over, she went to work on the rest of us. Before long, she’d proven to the entire team she was not only capable, but a great asset and someone we could—and did—depend on. After a few months, Sally had an entire department of allies on her side, which made it much harder for our boss to ignore her contributions. It took a while, but after several months our boss eventually realized he hadn’t given Sally a fair shake. And he ended up respecting her so much more because he realized she had proved herself in such a mature, professional way.
You may not always have the chance to win over a doubting colleague, but chances are, you’ll have a shot at impressing others in the office. Start by wowing the pants off everyone else, and your reluctant co-worker will soon follow suit.
3. Look For Probable Cause
It’s not easy to admit, but sometimes the lack of respect you’re receiving in the office, justified or not, has something to do with your behavior in the office (or when you’re off the clock). Just because you’re doing stellar work and have an army of supporters behind you, doesn’t mean no one will notice when you’re habitually late orhad a few too many at last month’s company happy hour.
Take one of my old employees from a few years back. He was a fantastic worker—when he actually made it into the office. For whatever reason, he just couldn’t get it together, was late every morning, and managed to have a different excuse each day.
After I had a chat with him about the issue and he still didn’t change his ways, I quickly lost respect for him as an employee. To me, the fact he had so little respect for the company’s hours of operation or his fellow colleagues who did manage to make it in on time every day meant I couldn’t rely on—or respect—him. Although he did great work, I stopped trusting him with any major projects or deadlines.
Doing great work in the office is obviously a step in the right direction toward winning the respect of your colleagues, but all that hard work can easily be overlooked if you’re not minding your actions before and after you’re on the clock.
I wish earning respect in the office was as easy as just spelling it out, Aretha-style, but the reality is, sometimes you’re going to have to fight a little harder to get your “profits” when you get to the office. But, follow these tips, and soon you’ll find you don’t need to ask for respect in the office, because you’ve earned it.
By Jennifer Winter