Sometimes, when we start a new role, (or even in a role we have experience in) we can feel as though our colleagues and peers don’t respect us as we think they should. This lack of respect can take many forms. You may feel uncomfortable with the level of familiarity your colleagues regard you with—we’ve all had those “too much information” moments with our coworkers—or it could be as overt as your coworkers blatantly questioning your qualifications or abilities. So what can be done about a perceived—or actual—lack of respect in the workplace?
Feeling Disrespected at Work
When you begin to feel the atmosphere in your workplace shifting away from mutual respect, start by taking account of what you are noticing. Document the changes you’ve seen, and how they’ve affected you and the workplace.
Keep track of changes
Keep your eye on the more subtle signs that could lead to bigger problems down the road. Things like unreplied emails, or ignored suggestions could lead to missed deadlines, dropped revenue, and workplace conflict in the long run. That’s not to say you should document every single time an email goes unanswered, but you should keep track of patterns of change, and emerging trends. Organisational inertia will generally keep these trends heading in the wrong direction, unless active changes are made.
If you feel like you’ve hit a low point with your team, you can apply a reinvention approach. Rather than picking out individuals or issues that you want to “address,” you approach the situation with a flexible, open mindset, soliciting input and suggestions from across your team.
The biggest hallmark of the reinvention approach is that you have to reach out to those around you. Sometimes this is easier if you bring in an objective third-party to lead discussions. This helps avoid the pitfalls of workplace dynamics and politics, that can hamper an honest discussion.
Often, I have been brought in to help teams that are experiencing dysfunction, by leading an open, honest discussion, and finding points of consensus among the team. From there, we can identify and apply techniques and exercises that will lead towards the desired changes.
In order for this to be truly effective, though, you need the commitment of the entire team. The sum of the work being done will be greater than the individual parts, when team members see how well they are able to perform their work duties when everyone contributes to creating a more respectful environment.
Direction, Vision and Goals
Typically, teams perform at higher levels when there is a known direction, and the vision and goals of the organisation are known, and constant. With solid direction, a deep understanding of the organisation’s goals, and minimal interference, most teams will accomplish great things, and develop deep respect for their colleagues.
Conversely, if these aspects aren’t in place (in the eyes of your team members), your team is going to struggle, and disrespect will begin to creep in. That is why it is so important to ask the right questions, and truly listen to the answers.
It’s also important to invite your team to ask questions of you—even uncomfortable questions! If your team has a desire to ask you questions like, “What do you do all day?” then perhaps you aren’t communicating your goals and duties as well as you thought you were. Allow these discussions to take place without fear of recrimination or repercussion.
Make sure that your meetings are productive, forward-thinking, and well-planned. Your staff should be able to anticipate what is going to be discussed in a meeting far ahead of time, so that they have the opportunity to present their best ideas and suggestions. This shows that you have respect for your coworkers and their time, and that you’re ready to take action.
You should be holding meetings regularly, to stay proactive. Holding only ad hoc meetings generally breeds a reactionary culture, rather than a proactive one. But remember, holding meetings regularly doesn’t meant that they have to be a constant part of your work day. “Regular” could mean once every month, or quarter, as the need may be. In any case, be sure that your meetings are well-planned, well-prepared, and goal- or action-oriented. Meetings should be motivational!
Recognise Achievements and Provide Feedback
In your personal communications with team members, take the time to recognise their achievements and commend them on their hard work. Conversely, if you see an area for improvement, make use of this one-on-one time to ask questions and offer constructive, evidence-based feedback—rather than in front of the group, where your colleagues might get defensive rather than cooperative. This shows that you have respect for their privacy and feelings, as well as interest in their growth and success.
Support Your Staff and Their Goals
We don’t live in the same world as our parents and grandparents, where it was common to work the same job, or for the same corporation for your entire career. People are transitioning from job to job, role to role, and company to company far more often now than ever before. People are also hungry to gain marketable skills, and climb their own career ladder. As a supervisor, it’s beneficial to understand this mindset in your colleagues. It’s not a lack of loyalty. It’s forethought, mixed with a bit of anxiety, and topped off with ambition. You want those types of people on your team, even if you foresee them moving on eventually.
Support your team when they want to learn new things, take on new roles, or expand their skills. When your team feels supported, they are more likely to grow into their roles, and go out of their way to support the rest of the team.
Related to this is the support that a proper succession plan provides to your staff. Anything you can do to remove uncertainty from your workplace, will help with morale and productivity. The more questions your team is left with, the more time they are going to spend asking each other, and trying to find answers. It’s best for you to provide the answers when you have them, and admit when you don’t.
Honest and open communication is a hallmark of mutual respect, good management and good team dynamics. You should strive to exemplify these traits, as a positive role model for your peers. Go out of your way to show your respect for your team, even at the times when you don’t feel respected.
Honest and Open Communication
Above all else, be open with your team. Solicit their advice when you need it. Admit when you don’t have an answer. Be honest with your goals and how you plan to achieve them (be honest with yourself as well). Be consistent in your communications—treat everyone with the same amount of candor, respect, and attention. Model the behavior you expect from your team. Be positive with yourself and with others, and always search for solutions rather than excuses. If you can model these aspects of respectful, effective management and communication, they will begin to show within your team as well.
If you’re having trouble building a culture of respect and cooperation in your workplace, get in touch today! You and your team deserve the workplace that you want.