In the first session of class, Supervision students are asked what they want to learn. One of the more often given answers is “how do I get my employees to respect me?”
The class is asked to tell about a boss they had that they respected. They will usually say, “that boss respected me.” The students have begun to answer their own question. In fact, it’s almost impossible to respect someone who doesn’t respect you.
They also tell me “that boss listened.” Again, this is absolutely correct. In fact, listening to someone is usually perceived as respectful. Not listening is almost always seen as disrespectful.
When asked “why do you say your employees don’t respect you?” the students respond “they act disrespectfully.” Encouraged to elaborate, they add “they [the employees] don’t listen,” “they have attitude,” and “it’s just the way they act.”
Two important things to know about respect are:
- Respect is usually mutual. It’s almost impossible to respect someone who doesn’t respect you, and it’s difficult (though not impossible) to act disrespectfully to someone who acts respectfully towards you.
- Respect is a verb. Being respectful isn’t just how we feel; it is a manner of behaving towards someone.
Two important things you can do to engender respect from your employees are:
- Intentionally treat them with respect. Even when they don’t return the gesture, act in a respectful manner and they’ll find it difficult to remain disrespectful.
- Coach them in how to act respectfully towards you. Let them know how you want to be treated. It’s likely you didn’t teach them to be disrespectful toward you, but since disrespect is a learned behavior, it’s safe to assume someone did. And even though you didn’t teach them to be disrespectful, if the behavior continues, you must admit you haven’t taught them not to be disrespectful.
There are two ways to do these things.
Two ways to intentionally treat employees respectfully or to coach respectful behavior are:
- Communicate your expectations.
There are numerous ways to listen, but most boil down to letting the other person speak until they have finished, without criticism or debate. It’s fine to ask clarifying questions or to restate a point to insure you understand the message, but save your comments for later – if ever. In fact, that’s the key to listening: strive to understand the other point of view, realizing that understanding does not mean agreement.
In general, employees prefer a one-on-one meeting or a small group meeting, in an atmosphere where it’s safe to express ideas and opinions. The Circle-Six is a useful small-group listening technique.
When we communicate expectations, whether giving an assignment or coaching a mistake, the information must be known and understood by the person receiving the message. This part can get tricky.
Who, what, when, where, why, and how generally contain the information the sender must insure the receiver understands. Some bosses opt to accomplish this by telling every employee all of the above. It’s not only a waste of time when the employee already knows some of these, but it’s also perceived as micro-management. Instead of being respectful, it can be considered a major form of disrespect. Of course, going to the other extreme – assuming the employee knows or ought to know it all – is just as bad and is not supervision at all. The trick is for the boss to know what the employee knows and is capable of. Knowing the employee’s abilities and limits allows the boss to give the right information without sending the message the boss thinks the employee is incompetent.
In the short, the answer to the question, “how do I get my employees to respect me?” is simply to remember that respect is mutual and respect is a verb.
To gain respect, give respect and let the other party know you want and expect to be respected.
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