Respect? You have to earn it first!

r-e-s-p-e-c-tRespect, or lack of it, is a topic I seem to be hearing a lot about lately from business owners. Perhaps nobody got more mileage out of this topic than the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield. With him, everything was about not getting any respect: “I told my wife we need a home improvement loan, so she gave me $1,000 to move out!”  Or how about, “For Halloween my wife sent our kids out dressed like me.”  And here is my favorite:  “I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me; he said I was being ridiculous—‘everyone’ hasn’t met me yet. I tell ya, I don’t get no respect!”

Lack of respect in every day life can be demonstrated in myriad ways. It doesn’t have to be as brash as a direct insult to someone. It can be as simple as an off-handed comment with an unstated, yet perfectly understood, harmful meaning toward the intended party.

Just like Rodney, a lot of business owners feel they don’t get any respect from their workers. This might be true. At the same time, I contend that if you want to get respect from people, first you have to give it.

I recently had a conversation with a business owner when I found myself trying to explain to him the concept of mutual respect. I tried to show him that perhaps the reason his people didn’t show respect to him was that he was unintentionally showing them that he didn’t respect them.

He started by mentioning that he didn’t think his people respected his opinions on things. This was especially irritating to him since he has “over twenty years in the business.” I suggested that maybe he taught them this habit. I asked him how often he asked his people for their opinions? And how did he respond if and when they offered them? Did he minimize their comments? Did he cut people off before they could fully explain their idea? Perhaps his “unstated comments” were that he didn’t really value what they had to say.

Next this frustrated owner mentioned his employees didn’t listen to him. I suggested maybe they’re just “mirroring” how he wasn’t listening to them. How often did he “multi-task” by continuing to engage in another task such as checking his email, or answering his cell phone when they were trying to make a point with him? How often did he lose eye contact, look at his watch or drum his fingers while they were trying to express an idea?

But then this business owner complained that his workers don’t show any respect for his time. (He shouldn’t have even gotten me started on this one!) I told him too many business owners believe the sun, the moon, and everybody’s schedule revolves around their precious schedule. And while owners can rail against people for being late for an appointment, they expect everybody else to be understanding if they’re late!

Executive coach and author Dr. Marshall Goldsmith gets right to the bottom line on disrespect when he writes, “In the past very bright people would put up with disrespectful behavior, but in the future they will leave!” No business owner can afford this continual exodus of talent.

So, the next time you find yourself pulling a Rodney Dangerfield by muttering, “I don’t get no respect,” ask yourself whether you’ve been showing much respect to anyone lately. Chances are good you’re getting as much as you’ve been giving!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

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