Respect. It should come automatically for employees, because they’re your subordinates, right? After all, they wouldn’t be there if you weren’t there to feed them. Plus, you were the one given the position of leadership, not them. I hate to break it to you, but sometimes the red carpet isn’t rolled out automatically for people of your status. Did your world fall apart just now? I’ll give you time to let that sink in. Now breathe in and out then quickly get over it. Ditch the fantastic idea that the whole world revolves around you just because you’re the boss. Now that the mourning period is over, read on.
The number one reason for losing the respect of employees is because they’re also losing their trust in you. When followers lose trust in leaders, decisions become questionable and even the smallest changes can create suspicion. If their attitude towards you wasn’t this way from the start, their perspective of you must have changed along the way. Do you feel like you’re losing the respect of your employees? Here are the probable reasons:
You don’t trust them
You might feel like this is a chicken-and-egg problem, but, really, it’s not. When you hire a person to do a particular job, they expect that you trust their abilities. Micro-managing and looking over your employees’ backs are huge demotivators. It sends the message that you feel that an employee is incompetent and can’t do anything right unless you’re the one in the driver’s seat. If you can’t trust someone to do a particular task, then why hire him in the first place? Just do it yourself. Take time to get to know the strengths of each of your team members. Distribute jobs fairly and challenge them to their fullest potentials.
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Another variant of the trust problem is when you don’t give employees the chance to level up because of some insecurity issues. You leave the “more challenging tasks” to the same people over and over again, because you’re afraid that they’ll botch it up and you’ll get blamed for their stupidity or because of some unreasonable bias. For instance, I once had a male boss who gave all the “quality” jobs to the men, while leaving the menial tasks to the females. There was another one whose point person was the office suck-up. Instances such as these give off the message that you’re insecure and selfish; you can’t stand up and defend your employees if ever they do make some missteps. It may also give off the impression that you don’t have the ability to mentor your subordinates or work with people who challenge your ideas. Or maybe you’re afraid that if your subordinates succeed, they’ll be better than you. Employees generally want to get along with their bosses. Just read horror stories of the “terror” boss and compare this to stories of the ideal boss. You’d realize that not all employees are after your job. Some of them will happily work for a boss that brings out the best in them.
You don’t respect their space
You expect people to drop their tasks for the most insignificant reasons, you hold them up for long-winding meetings that go nowhere and still expect them to be productive at the end of the day, you disturb the peace and quiet when they’re working on critical tasks… the list goes on and on. I’ve always wanted to take managers out of their cozy offices to open-space cubicles just so they can appreciate the significance of private space. As a boss, you have the right to call meetings or talk to employees on matters of importance. But if there’s a way to keep it simple, direct-to-the-point, and short then please do so. One company realized that disturbances such as these irritated many of their employees. They came up with some rules when conducting business meetings. To get rid of additional disturbances, they replaced the fax machine with internet fax and installed small chat areas around the room where people could talk in private when need be.
You’re a poor communicator
You give commands and expect people to follow them without question. Unfortunately, you’re not in military training camp where blind obedience is necessary in the line of duty. You’re in an office with people of diverse backgrounds and personalities and where some people actually brains that they’d like to use for critical thinking. I once knew two managers who usually agreed when it came to implementing office policies. However, Manager A would talk to his subordinates first when problems came up and ask if they had any questions or suggestions. Manager B, however, had a “this is not a democracy” frame of mind. While it’s true that leaders should be able to make decisions when the situation calls for it, not listening to your employees is detrimental to any company culture. Needless to say, Manager B quickly lost the respect of his few teammates when they realized that he was close-minded and too full of himself to recognize others’ needs.
You make bad decisions
Bad can be relative. What’s bad for an employee may be advantageous to the company. It’s sometimes hard to come up with a decision that suits both parties. There are some instances when you have to be play hardball to be a leader. But there are times when you may need to loosen that iron hold and see the forest for the trees. What are the long-term and short-term consequences of your decision? Is a particular policy really necessary even if it means decreasing employee morale? How will a particular decision affect the company in various aspects? After you’ve made a decision, how you communicate this decision to employees – especially if it would affect their workflow – is key to achieving understanding between both parties.
You make crass jokes
Some employees may find this acceptable and forgivable, but there are still some who don’t. As a woman, I find crass jokes offensive, especially when they’re dished out first thing in the morning. I don’t want to be greeted by overgrown boys talking about sexually suggestive matters when I’m expecting to enter a professional environment. Many of us employees expect our bosses to behave in a respectable manner. There are more significant and productive things we can talk about that go beyond bedroom jokes.
I am not advocating disrespect to leaders. I even feel that we should still follow their rules even if you feel them to be unwise. But I’m also convinced that there’s a way for both employer and employee to be happier in their work relationship if effort is exerted on both sides.
You can command people to respect you, because of your title. But you don’t want that. You want to naturally command respect and foster productive professional relationships. Before firing off employees, do some self-reflection first. Learn to listen, properly communicate, help others succeed, and act like a leader. That’s how you earn respect.