Should you give respect? Or is it only earned?

Oliver isn't allowed on counters and it's not our preference that he climb on our bookshelves. We could claim that he has no respect for us. But I think he does respect us, it's just that he wants to climb on something. It's important to separate a person's actions from claiming respect.
Oliver isn’t allowed on counters and it’s not our preference that he climb on our bookshelves. We could claim that he has no respect for us because he does, unfortunately, routinely enjoy hanging out on the counters and playing on the bookcase. But I think he does respect us, it’s just that he loves to climb. It does us no good to get angry at him, claiming he doesn’t respect us, and getting pulled into a cycle of friction and frustration, just because he’s doing something that is inherently who he is, even when it’s in conflict with what we think he should do (or not do!).

Managers should be given respect by their employees.

That’s a statement that I’ve heard several times lately. It’s not a claim I agree with. Managers need to earn their respect.

But I do believe that we have to give respect to the position and the decisions one makes it in, even if we don’t agree with a choice or method used. That’s different than respecting the person only on the basis of being in the role. 

That’s the tangle that managers, employees, co-workers, and even families get caught in. We confuse the actions of a person with who the person is. They are separate.

In other words, managers shouldn’t (and don’t) automatically get another person’s respect just because they hold a lofty title or sit high in the organizational chart. But the decisions they make should be respected. 

Our workplace conflicts have these knots, but we have the ability, each of us, to untangle them. When we disagree with another’s decision, or how someone handles a situation, it gives us the opportunity to see things from another perspective. What might have motivated that person to do that? What information don’t I have that she does? What can I learn about myself through this situation?

Let go of the judgment of right and wrong, then move through the conflict with compassion and openness, finding some common ground. You don’t have to agree with the other person and you should voice your view — with respect! When you leave the door open for discussion instead of backing a person into a corner, you can often find a solution that works for everyone. Even when we don’t find that happy place for all, we have let go of the anger and judgment that builds unnecessary walls between us.

Respect is earned in many ways. It starts with open conversation that includes listening and learning, thus allowing us to get to a place of understanding.

Watch respect grow when you give it to others!

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2 comments

  1. Judy Ringer says:

    Hi Robin — thanks for the great post on respect. Such a common word with so many strings attached, it seems. As you suggest, respecting where others are coming from changes the landscape. I’m reading a great book on generational differences, Sticking Points by Haydn Shaw. The book is increasing my awareness of the different cultures each generation grew up in and how seemingly disrespectful acts (like texting during a meeting) are not necessarily intended that way. Thanks again. As always, you got me thinking!

    • Robin says:

      That sounds like a very helpful book, Judy, thanks for sharing the title. Looks like it provides lots of examples to increase awareness of how to be open to others views! Love that! Appreciate you stopping by. Have a great day.

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