How to gain employee respect

More employers are completing employee surveys in an attempt to gain a better sense of what people are feeling in the workplace. Not surprisingly it is highlighting that employees often do not respect each other and they also seem not to respect management. The need for respect in the workplace seems universal.


Respect plays out after the performance review when an enraged employee goes home and lets the world know that they are not respected for their contribution. The damage to the respect relationship damages the employer brand and employer-employee relationship to the extent that many people decide to leave. Employees and managers want to feel respected and it is a major reason given in exit interviews of why employees leave companies. Having a respectful and caring environment can also lead to higher retention and attraction of talent.


So what it this respect that everyone is looking for and how do you create an environment of respect?


The ideal place to start looking for an answer is in the area of social psychology. Jonathan Haith poses a theory that we have a certain set of base morals that drive what we are willing to accept. The six moral behaviours are care / harm, fairness / cheating, liberty / oppression, loyalty / betrayal, authority / subversion and sanctity / degradation. These are present in most cultures in the world.


Each of these moral dimensions is a scale in itself forms the basis of a “moral compass”. We want leaders with a strong moral compass and an environment in which our moral compass points in the same direction as our bosses. Leaders also tend to attract followers that strengthen their moral pre-dispositions.


Respect can thus be analysed as a representation of all of these morals.


So if you are a boss that is caring, fair, free, loyal, competent (an authority) and operate with a high degree of sanctity – your staff would continue working for you. If there is however a feeling that there is a potential for harm, cheating, oppression, betrayal, subversion or degradation then people start thinking that there is danger here. It seems that your brain is genetically programmed to run away from situations like this.


Respect is also two sided. The degree to which you are recognised for these behaviours and the extent to which you acknowledge the same in your employees, determines if the respect meter is ticking up or down.


Without self-respect, you can hardly expect others to respect you and is the first step to creating a respectful environment. Self-respect starts with the same basic skills that are required to respect others.


The next step may be even harder – but if you can get it right it unlocks a world of respect. Start small and make sure that if you make a promise to yourself or others, that you keep it. Does not matter how small it is initially – but if you say that you are going to do something – then do it 100%, till complete – no matter the consequences. In time this develops an unmovable core of achievement that allows you to do whatever you say you will do. People will start respecting you for what you say and you will also start respecting people for what they say. You will also stop promising things that you cannot fulfil. This is one of the major keys to respect.


Some other ideas for moving to a next level of respect include:

  • Take time to reflect on what is happening with respect in your life and how you got to this point.
  • Determine if you want to have respect because you feel that you need to prove something to someone else or yourself.
  • Determine if you are dumping your feelings on others. This may happen if you have an issue somewhere else in your life and you are transferring it to other people. This erodes respect quickly.
  • What triggers your feelings of not being respected and what type of behaviours that you engage in? Whenever you notice these triggers breathe a bit and try to react differently.
  • Cultivate skills of active listening and act on what people are saying and requesting from you.
  • Do not be afraid to re-establish old broken relationships. It takes burying your pride and being humble – but a relationship requires constant work.
  • Learn to be patient with others and realise that people are doing things because they want to make a contribution to the end result and just need good avenues to channel that energy.
  • When you take a strong position that may offend others – may sure that you have the data to motivate where you are so that you can justify this when challenged.
  • Be more precise in what you want and communicate clearly and unambiguously. This builds a world of respect.
  • Humility, sincerity, generosity and confidence without arrogance build a strong base for a positive relationship.


Building respect with employees starts with self-respect and positive behaviours. From there respect follows naturally.