We called him “Rodney.” It may have been cruel but this guy got no respect at work. Loud and rude and always asking for a special favor or seeking a shortcut to get something he wanted. He made more noise in his cube than a rowdy heckler at a comedy club. You can probably guess where the nickname came from — this former co-worker sounded a lot like late comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
But our Rodney was nowhere near as funny as his namesake. Maybe he acted the way he did out of insecurity. Maybe he confused attention for respect. All I know is that his behavior had the opposite effect — it made it impossible to work with him. Or even next to him.
Respect is the currency of any workplace. It buys you patience from others, support, and ultimately influence.
We all want to feel respected. But for most of us, it goes beyond personal validation. It is a requirement to do our jobs effectively. Whether you are a leader in title or somebody whose job has a high ratio of responsibility to authority, you can build credibility through hard work, being conscientious, and achieving meaningful results.
But is respect itself earned or given? I recently asked folks on LinkedIn about this. I believe that every person deserves a baseline level of respect. This holds true even for misguided and obnoxious teammates like Rodney. This is important to remember because you are inevitably going to work with at least one Rodney in your career.
But you never want to be one yourself. This is why you need to work to both stand out and stand in — because strong yet respectful voices are needed in any workplace.
Here are six ways to maintain respect at work over the long term:
It always surprises me how some folks are just not curious about others — or the world around them. It is a simple thing, but many people make assumptions about what others know. If a co-worker rejects an idea, ask them why. When someone has a hazy look of confusion in a meeting, ask if they understand the goal of the project. Ask, ask, ask. You will build trust and understanding.
Explain your thinking
The less you make people work to understand what you are asking of them, the more likely they are to give you what you need. This requires some explaining on your part. You need to clarify, interpret, and define. This means sharing the “why” with your teammates — why you make the decisions you make, why you are trying to achieve what you are, and why the work you have planned will get you there.
We have all worked with selfish colleagues — folks who only reach out when they need something. You want to be seen as a true partner, so act like one. Check in on progress. Work to understand the nitty-gritty of your teammates’ roles and responsibilities. See if there is anything you can do to help. Make time to say hello. Invest in a two-way relationship.
Honor great work
This is about more than sharing the spotlight. Honoring great work can be micro and macro in the workplace. For example, you can make small steps by acknowledging the person who shared an idea during a meeting. “I was impressed by the idea that Sally shared earlier — it delivers on many of our priorities.” You can apply it on a larger scale by suggesting or selecting strong contributors for future projects (regardless of title or role).
While it is normal and even a good thing to show emotions at work, you do not want to alienate people. Blowing up when things go wrong is not showing your passion. When you talk down to colleagues for missing a deadline, your reaction only makes it more likely they will avoid working with you in the future. Or worse, deliver subpar work. Instead, aim for objective responses in all your dealings.
Lead by actions
A title does not automatically mean that you are seen as a leader. Your actions do. So no matter what your title may be, you have to work to lead. When challenges pop up (and they will), have the courage to be great. Work to be a paragon of organization and efficiency. And do so with kindness in the face of hard or uncertain times.
Respect is not something that you are owed because of your title — it is something you build through your actions.
We know that our customers respect our team at Aha! because they tell us so via emails, phone calls, and love notes. We are working really hard to make sure that remains true and that we stay committed to being a drama-free company. It is an incredible team — not a single Rodney in the bunch.
Some of these actions outlined above might take a bit of extra time or effort, but remember that it is an investment in your own future — the more your colleagues respect you, the more you will all achieve together.
What traits do you respect most in your colleagues?