Five Ways To Earn Your Employees Respect

Writen by Marnie Green

In the old days, respect came with the title. Managers were respected because they were managers. Heck, we even addressed them as "Mr. So and So." Today we are wise to that scam. Or at least we think we are. The reality is that today's employees have clear expectations of what they want from their leadership. And, if they get what they need, they'll respect you. If they don't get what they expect, they can make your life as a leader difficult. Here are a few of the most common expectations I hear from employees who don't show much respect for their managers:

"Don't treat us like mushrooms. Give me the big picture." As I conduct focus groups and employee interviews, I am amazed that employees just don't have the big picture. The staff I talk to have a great sense of their own duties. They want desperately to contribute in a positive way to the organization's goals. Employees respect leaders who give them more information than they need, rather than less. Giving employees only the information you think they need deprives them of the opportunity to contribute to the big picture.

"Show an interest in my development." Recent studies have shown that on-the-job learning keep people interested in their jobs. In addition, using growth or individual development plans help employees stay focused and committed. Managers can develop trust and respect by showing an interest in the individual interests and development needs of each employee. Sitting down with each employee on a regular basis to talk about their career can only develop better relationships.

"Have the guts to hold everyone accountable." One of the fastest ways to destroy morale and the employee's will to do more is to allow the slackers to slack. Managers who address performance issues head on are seen as strong leaders with clear vision. Those managers who allow poor performers to continue in their ways face the impacts, not only from the poor performers, but from those who perform at the highest levels. Who wants to work hard when a colleague slacks off and gets the same or similar rewards? It's an equity issue.

"Get into the trenches once in awhile." I worked with a team whose biggest complaint was that their manager did not know what they did. Their function was clerical in nature and the manager, when asked, said, "It's simple. They greet the public and file paperwork. How hard can that be?" In reality, the manager had never done the job. He had no idea what kinds of complaints the staff heard everyday. He had not experienced an eight-hour shift standing behind a counter. He had not experienced the rush of a brief 30-minute lunch period. He lived in a different world and they did not respect him. Had he spent one day a month or one hour a week behind the counter, working side-by-side with his staff, his perspective about the job would have been different and their perspective of him would have changed too.

"Be human." In today's complex world, we cannot afford to not recognize that employees have a life outside of work. And, in some cases, this life presents difficult challenges. The respected manager shows compassion, listens, and makes allowances where possible to show a human side. This doesn't mean that the manager is a counselor or therapist. On the contrary, the manager must keep the goals of the work unit clearly in mind; however, the respected manager is flexible enough to help employees through the rough times.

All of us want to be respected. We want people to believe what we say—to trust us. To ensure that your staff has genuine respect for you, consider these five requests as the starting blocks.

Marnie Green, Chandler, AZ, USA

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. She is the author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance (Pearson/Prentice Hall). Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop leaders today for the workforce of tomorrow. Contact Green at

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