An inconvenient truth: Respect me
I recently read these insightful comments from John Spence:
More and more high potentials are telling me that they want to be “treated with respect” by their leader.
Now, when I entered the workforce 20 years ago it seemed to me that most of the respect flowed from the employee to the leader, showing respect for their position, experience and authority. Yet what I am hearing from these key employees, most between the ages of 30 and 40, is that they absolutely demand to be treated with respect, have their opinions listened to, and stand as a peer with their leaders.
An Inconvenient Truth: People declaring they want respect, likely indicates they don’t feel respected.
John’s comments include two suggestions for treating employees with respect.
- Listening to opinions
- Standing as a peer
Three don’ts of respect
- Don’t hoard opportunities. Have you seen leaders grabbing the glory from high profile, high potential opportunities and throwing crumbs to others? I have. It’s disrespectful, selfish, sad and demoralizing to “the troops.”
- Don’t shield people from the truth. Shielding says you’re too weak or too dumb to handle the truth. Shielding is a form of rejection. We shield young children. The, “You can’t handle the truth,” approach is arrogant.
I’m not suggesting that CEO’s go on TV to air dirty laundry and in so doing, undermine stock prices, diminish customer confidence, or in other ways decrease profits. I am suggesting that showing respect to employees means being forthright in ways that respect all stakeholders.
- Don’t help. Helping may be a form of rejection that says, you aren’t capable. When someone begins showing frustration, begin exploring ways to help. Before that, let them work things out themselves. It shows respect.
What other ways can leaders show respect to employees?
The entire article where John speaks of respect: “All I want is a lot of respect.”
Get out of the way! It is a little different than “don’t help” in that help may be needed, time-to-time, if they ask for it. More importantly, showing respect means trust which means get out of the way.
Set the direction, some parameters, and then let team members run with it. Most times you will be amazed what can happen when you get out of the way.
Nicely said. Thanks for joining in…
Dan, you’ve hit on one of the great shifts in the workplace. The Free Agent job market and a different set of career expectations allows workers to leave far more easily than a few decades ago. That dynamic flattens hierarchy and creates work relationships that resemble mutually beneficial alliances more than boss-subordinate.
That said, I’m not comfortable with #3 in your list. I would say “help judiciously.” With my kids, I know that my greater experience lets me see things they don’t. I’m fine with them learning from experience much of the time, but there are times I need to intervene to head off a shipwreck. So it is with subordinates. I’ll let them learn from mistakes often, but often a bit of interventionalist help is the right thing.
Thanks for your comment.
I see what you mean with your adjustments to number three. It’s one thing to step back or not help. It’s quite another to let someone damage themselves or the organization they serve.
Best to you,
Mark is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/mark-friedman
I fall in that age range & feel this way. In my case, I’m an experienced, fairly successful salesperson. My supervisor wants me to tell him everything I do, but each time I try to talk with him he gets distracted by his cell phone/email. This is the most visible form of disrespect, but far from the only issue causing problems within our business.
I just love hearing stories that illustrate important points. Thanks for leaving yours.
I do not believe in talking down to employees or followers any more than I believe in talking down to a child. Leaders need followers as much as followers need leaders. One is not better to the exclusion of the other. They are simply different callings and we all wear either hat in a variety of ways in our lives.
Dan, like Mark I’m a little uncomfortable with #3, in my case due to what the word “help” means to me. I take from your description though the principle of “don’t hover” or “don’t always intervene.”
Nice addition to the conversation. More and more research is being down on leadership/followership and the dynamic relation between the two.
Don’t hover brings an interesting concept to the mix. Thanks
Best to you,
Julia is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/julia
Very interesting topic – as always!
I think it is incumbent on leaders to find out what respect means to the person rather than assuming that certain actions demonstrate respect or that everyone wants the same thing. Leaders may be pleasantly surprised at their staff members’ answers to questions such as “What do people say or do that show they respect you?” Or, “What do you want to be respected for?” Or even “How may I best show you that I respect you?”
Great addition to the conversation and so fundamental.
Love your questions. Just asking them shows respect.
Instead of making people earn her respect, my mother gave everyone her respect until they lost it. In so doing, almost everyone lived up to her high estimations of them. It didn’t matter how old they were, what their background was. who they knew or didn’t know. If you were a human being, you had her respect. It is a lesson I learned through observation, and I frequently ask myself if I’m living up to her example. The workplace is just one venue in which we live our lives. How much easier it is to live if we act with the same principles regardless of venue.
This post asks what leaders can do to show respect. Good question, and John’s article took some interesting angles.
I think that “stand as a peer” is, for some people, not the kind of respect they are looking for. Some people need/want a leader who has been assigned or chosen to take on the high risk, high stakes decisions, allowing the “follower” to focus on the tasks that are so critical to an organization or process but are not tasks that are “peer level”.
And for me, a HUGE part of how my leader(s) can respect me is by understanding that my work life is part of a greater whole, one where being a parent, community volunteer, spouse, etc. is important to me.
Really true. I have found that when I ask advise from my team, that they respect me more. Extending this, I used to think that as a leader I had to have all the great ideas. Now I have discovered that simply pointing to good ideas is all that’s really needed most of the time, and when those great ideas come from your staff, that’s even better.
I love the Don’t Help one, that’s the one I need to work on.
Don’t help. This is one many leaders struggle with. One the one hand we are told to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, but on the other hand we are told not to help. Which one is it?!?
It is both. To jump right in sends the message that you feel your team is not capable of doing things on their own. This type of attitude drains many leaders. Delegation is useless if you don’t actually delegate. Like you pointed out, the time to jump in is when you see frustration set in. Even then you don’t take over–you help.
I think of my young son when I examine this part of leadership. When he was 2 years old and really exploring the world, he often rejected my efforts to help. Getting out the door was always challenging because he wanted to pick his own clothes, dress hiimself, put on his own shoes…he didn’t want my help! I later discovered that I was actually doing more harm than good when I jumped in to do things for him that he could do for himself. Was I trying to raise him to be a man who couldn’t be self sufficient? Many companies and organizations have failed because the leaders did not have faith in those that they lead. Without that respect everything else will begin to crumble.
This is very interesting… yes.. when tell you what they want.. that is usually an indication… of what they want!!!
I will never understand where some “leaders” get the notion that they will get someone’s best work by treating them like scum. Why would I want to give that person my best? Why would I want to do everything possible to make them look good?
There are really only two things you need to do to be successful. First, do everything in your power to make it possible for those working for you to be successful. Second, do everything in your power to make it possible for the person you work for to be successful.
You succeed at neither when you disrespect in either direction. People are not dumb. No one wants to go job hunting, especially in this environment. So, what you get is a person who knows where the “firing line” is. They will do just enough to keep from getting fired. That is not the type of employee that will make you or your company reach full potential.
Wow. Another brilliant article. Just when I think that I have a good plan on how to correct my deficiencies, something else comes along and adds itself to the pile. Not that I am complaining. I thoroughly enjoy looking at my faults and trying to correct them.
Thanks again for helping me see the light.
Great post, Dan. The best way to respect employees is to understand their ambitions and how to best communicate with them. The manager may be well meaning and think they’re communicating effectively with the employee when in reality they are saying the opposite of what would motivate.
Having this unbiased insight would allow the leader to respect the employee, resulting in greater productivity and bi-directional respect.
I think your last point “Don’t help” may be the most important reminder — many who offer help don’t mean to show disrespect and yet it may be taken that way.
I agree that people need respect. Listening their views and opinions and treating them as peers strengthen their belief that they are respected. I think leaders can show respect by showing interest in the employees interest. It means connectivity in interest, knowing more about interest and encouraging people to connect more with better effort to their dreams. Leaders can show respect by interacting with employees and not expecting them to come to your cabin or to you for suggestions or guidance. Leader should go to people to know and understand their problems, feelings and sentiments.
I strongly believe it is all about connectivity of purpose. When leader influence people to connect their purpose in better way that is leadership. Leadership is the basically about being human, sensing others need and showing empathy to feelings.
Passing circular or instruction may create discipline in the organization for short time, but it can not effective tool to sustain effectiveness. So, leader should walk around, wonder around and talk around with people to be effective and show respect with the people irrespective of the position.
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Employees in their 30s want to be respected for knowing how to do their job, which is why they want their opinions listened to as if they were a peer of the executives, rather than being a peer to the executives. By the time you’re in your 30s, you have between 10 and 20 years of experience invested in your career. The level of competence of key players with that experience deserves respect.
As for the 3rd point in the don’t list, I try to ask if and where I can help, rather than just solve the problem for them. Solving the problem for an employee without them asking for help is what’s undermining.
Thanks for leaving your first comment on Leadership Freak. I appreciate your insights and hope to see you again soon.
I think the newest, youngest generation have very different values. They don’t respect leadership because of title or authority doesnt carry the same weight. Respecting them means more involvement and engagement…. Great blog thank you
One of my pet peeves is bosses who show disrespect by hiding everything from the employees, even things that are needed to do their job up to par. Sabotaging an employee doesn’t help them feel welcomed and they aren’t as productive.
I’m with you. That kind of power play doesn’t help anyone. Mostly it just feeds ego.