Gaining respect in the office

Wednesday, 10 August 2011 00:40 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

It is interesting to consider why we instinctively respect some people, but others can be very hard to appreciate. Respect doesn’t necessarily mean we have to agree with everything they say. Respect comes from people’s inner life, and the values and beliefs they hold. If someone is sincere, honest and self effacing, it is easy to respect them, even if they believe in a different life philosophy.

Your position in the hierarchy will not earn you respect. It is you that must earn respect for yourself. If we can understand why some people instinctively gain respect, we can learn to implement these characteristics in our own life.

Self respect is all the respect that one actually needs. The world cannot take away from you what you have inside your head. Not many of us truly realise our ‘real’ unlimited potential. We are one with the entire universe. You command and the universe will obey if you have faith in it.

Ask yourself what you would like to see yourself accomplish in life. Set targets which would eventually lead to that jackpot. When you are finally there, you would turn back and give yourself a pat on the back with a smile. Visualise that joy every single day.

Respect others and others will respect you. To be respected by others, you have got to respect yourself first with the way you talk, act and dress up and in many other ways. The more professional you are, the more respect you will earn.

I have outlined below some of the ways to earn respect in office.

Talk less

We do not command respect by excessively talking. The often repeated saying ‘actions speak louder than words’ is very applicable here. If we do the right thing and become the right person, we do not to justify our actions with words. Talking less does not mean that we ignore the power of the spoken word, it means that we speak when necessary.  If we are judicious in speaking people will give more importance to our words. If we speak loudly on every minor issue, people will just start to switch off. My advice is ‘do not break the silence with your words if those words cannot add any value, when spoken’. This reminds me of some of the captivating words by Lao Tzu, a philosopher of ancient China: True words aren’t eloquent, eloquent words aren’t true. Wise men don’t need to prove their point; men who need to prove their point aren’t wise. (Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching, Verse 81)

Listen more

Everyone likes to have their own say. If we can patiently listen to others, they will appreciate our concern and attention. Listening to others shows that we are interested in them as a person. Listening more is the perfect complement to talking less. When we talk we try to influence others; when we listen we appreciate others, it is important to get the right balance.

Sincere appreciation

There is a big difference between sincere appreciation, and flattery which hopes for similar words to be repaid in kind. Take the time to look for people and actions which really deserve appreciation and be generous in offering it to others.

It is also important to be judicious in offering praise to others; if we do it all the time it starts to become insincere. It is common practice that several managers don’t mean it when they tell their subordinates ‘thank you for a job well done’ or ‘how are you?’ Sounds hypocritical, but those are the ways.


It is easy to build up lists of people we like and people we dislike. Our mind gets drawn to the faults of others, but if we are always picking up on the limitations and faults of others, it will diminish our own standing. To be nonjudgmental and accepting of others is a very powerful trait to develop.

In society there can be certain peer pressure to join in criticising others; there is a peer pressure to accept the gossip of the world. Our attitude can be ‘we have enough problems to deal with ourselves, without worrying about the failings of other people’.


The importance of honesty cannot be underestimated; if you gain a reputation for being ‘slippery with the truth,’ it will be difficult to gain the genuine respect of others. It is easier to be dishonest than we may imagine.

When things go wrong, there is a temptation to look for someone or something to blame. It takes a certain amount of courage to just be honest and accept things didn’t work out as planned; in the long run, this honesty will be appreciated.

Leave praise to other people

To gain the respect of other people, it will not help to remind people of why they should admire you. Good deeds will be rewarded; there is no need to force the issue. Respect often comes to those who don’t chase after it.

Self respect

To gain the respect of others, it is important to have faith in yourself. This is not an egotistical pride, but modest self respect and faith in your inner capacities. I agree with the sentiment that respect is something that cannot be bought but comes naturally.

To gain the genuine respect of others, it is important to be detached from misfortune, praise and criticism. Praise can easily go to our head and bloat our pride; this diminishes all the good work we have done before.

On the opposite side, we should not get flustered by criticism. There is a great dignity in being able to just ignore unjust criticism. Some people get easily offended at the slightest criticism and then respond in an ugly manner. If some ignorant people criticise us, we diminish its importance simply be ignoring it. If you can maintain the highest principles despite any provocation, people will come to appreciate and respect your inner values.

Don’t take yourself too seriously

If we have a feeling of indispensability and our own importance, we will rub people up the wrong way. If we can be self-depreciating and aware of our own limitations, people will respect us more. It is important to avoid taking yourself too seriously, but it is also important to avoid an exaggerated false modesty which can be just as irritating.

Be sympathetic

We can easily respect someone who has magnanimous heart. If we have a large heart, we tend to tolerate and identify with the failings of others rather than making a big deal out of it. Sympathy should extend to all and not just a select few people.

Principles above money and power

There are numerous opportunities to increase our financial well being and personal influence at the expense of personal values. But, if we make progress at the expense of others, we will lose the respect of others. Sticking to higher principles and placing others above any temporary monetary gain is a powerful way to gain the lasting respect and appreciation of others.

Be dependable and responsible

These simple traits show up on nearly every survey about what employers want in an employee. And it’s no surprise. They want employees who show up on time every day, take their job seriously and take responsibility for their actions. Consistently get your work done on time and you’ll become known as the person the company can count on.

In other words, another way to really gain the respect of others is to interact in a non-defensive manner, even if they are ‘attacking’ us. I believe self-respect is one of great importance if a person is to be successful as an individual.

For those of us who may not know how to act in business, it can be somewhat intimidating. But it can be pretty easy to make sure that you handle yourself well in the world of business. Here are a few simple rules to follow.

Establish yourself as a ‘professional’ professional

Are you interested in being seen for your contributions rather than your birth year? These tips will help you to get noticed more quickly, earn you greater influence and responsibility and get you closer to a level playing field.

Be a student of everyone

Asking questions and taking advice isn’t a sign of weakness, and it won’t emphasise your youth either. You’ll get better faster, impress more people and actually seem older.

Why it works: Seeking ways to improve is a sign of maturity and is the easiest way to gain the skills and knowledge that make you more effective. Plus, demonstrating a willingness to learn from your elders takes away a lot of the stereotypes and targets you will be marked as a millennial.

Write really well

Develop your ability of written communication to the highest level, both in your daily emails and in deliverables for which you are responsible. This includes correct grammar, capitalisation and punctuation – even in email.

Why it works: If you can quickly fire off sharp emails, you will come across as highly capable and intelligent (provided your content isn’t inappropriate). Not everyone types well and certainly not everyone writes well.

Today, many first impressions are made through email. If you present well there, you will be developing your personal brand and when people are surprised at how young you are compared to what they expected, you will know that you’ve already broken some of their preconceptions about your generation.

Demonstrate leadership

Help other employees to be more effective. For example, since you are a regular blog-reader, you probably are ahead of the curve when it comes to getting things done with computers. Be generous to help others format documents, create spreadsheets, or find information on the web.

Concerning the boss, give appropriate amounts of ground-level feedback on how things can be improved if he/she is interested. Don’t suck-up, but do provide the kind of info they want to know.

Why it works: Nothing says maturity like leadership. If you have workers of every age looking to you to be more effective, you’ll have their respect by default.

Work smarter

Create templates for common tasks and send them out to others who could use them. Write scripts or stock emails for common customer interactions. If you are in sales, design a killer territory plan and use tools like jigsaw to get better conversion rates. Employ solid time-management to get more done in less time.

Why it works: When push comes to shove, intelligent managers will determine how to treat you based on performance alone. If you are the top producer in the department, you will usually be respected and rewarded. There aren’t many companies that don’t appreciate bottom-line results.

Show up

Take advantage of opportunities to interact with upper-management. If it’s a small company, say yes when you are invited out to drinks or dinner. If it’s a larger organisation, reach as high as is practical.

Participate in forums, Q&As and special project groups. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself at the proper moment. Your CEO might enjoy hearing the perspective of his tip-top inside sales representative, for example.

Why it works: We’re probably not talking about someone who got their job on the strength of tenure alone, so there’s a good chance they aren’t as limited by notions of age as some career middle managers might be. This is just an instance of going to find the people who are most likely to respect the substance of who you are.

Avoid being an idiot

Subtle advice, isn’t it? Anyone who’s spent any amount of time in an office has seen talented people who cannot stop shooting themselves in the foot with stupid habits: improper attire, showing up late, inappropriate jokes, failure to stop talking about oneself, the list goes on and on.

Exercise good judgment and at least be aware of the norms in your workplace. Like with great writing, you need to prove you can follow the rules before you can get away with breaking them. It is better to be silent and to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it. A golden rule is staying quiet if you have nothing to speak. Why it works: It’s hard to get respect when you’re fired.

Go the extra mile with a smile

Obviously it shows a great deal of care if you take on a few extra assignments or willingly work longer hours. But when you do it without complaining, it shows to your bosses what a good worker you are and how much you care about the job. Many people you work with may not be so interested in taking on those few extra tasks and going the extra mile, but if you can do it gladly, you can show the bosses just what a valuable asset you can be to their company.

(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)

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