Respect /ri-spek/. “To view or consider with some degree of reverence; to esteem as possessed of real worth.” That’s how Noah Webster’s dictionary defined respect in 1828. But according to many workers, bosses today may need a reminder about the meaning of the word. For example, according to research by ISMP, disrespectful behavior within healthcare institutions is growing. Numerous other studies seem to affirm the same thing is going on elsewhere. The bottom line? We’re rude, and getting ruder.
This may be especially problematic among leadership, managers and supervisors in businesses of all sorts. Disrespectful bosses create turnover. One Director from the consulting company DDI put it “How leaders manage their emotions and how they make other people feel are the strongest drivers of talent retention.” Another article on respect and retention reported on a study which concluded “Feeling respected at work is what matters most to employees and is the single best predictor of a company’s culture score.”
As someone who has been in management for nearly his entire career, this topic hits home. I reflect on my own behaviors and wonder if I’ve developed any disrespectful habits. Have I been rude to my team or any of my direct reports? Have I, maybe even unknowingly, said or done things that have been interpreted as uncaring, thoughtless, or unkind? Of course, I hope the answer is no. But at the same time, a healthy dose of honesty makes me at least suspect that I have been guilty of this myself at some point in my career.
I began to wonder…what, exactly, are those things most frequently identified as disrespectful behaviors by employees of their managers? Could they be things I am doing without even knowing how they are being perceived?
So I turned to my friends, colleagues and network for advice! I wanted to collect a list of behaviors that may be interpreted as disrespectful by employees. I wanted to develop a sort of checklist by which I could honestly examine my own management practices and hopefully eliminate any behaviors that were likely to be interpreted as rude or thoughtless by others. The following list are things that friends helped me identify, and it forms a sort of personal checklist tool by which to examine myself.
EXAMPLES OF DISRESPECTFUL “BOSS” BEHAVIORS IDENTIFIED BY EMPLOYEES:
- Setting meetings without consideration for the employees existing schedule
- Not actively listening to the ideas, concerns, thoughts expressed by an employee
- Not responding to email requests for help or feedback or questions by your direct reports
- Distracted listening during meetings or one-on-ones (checking phone, email, etc.)
- Changing meeting times regularly and with short notice
- Regularly showing up late for meetings
- Publicly discussing things with an employee that should be said privately
- Bosses who go around you and deal directly with your direct reports
- Failure to say please or thank you
- Failure to listen to subject matter experts, and pretending to know more than they do
- Providing incomplete instructions or expectations
- Expecting employees to behave certain ways, but not doing so themselves
- Using workplace authority to push political or social opinions on staff
- Not respecting employee breaks, engaging with them on work issues on their lunch
- Showing up late for meetings regularly
- Foul language
- Dumping projects on staff with tight deadlines that disrupt their other work planned for that day
- Allowing meetings to run too long, making people late for their next meeting or appointment
- Taking all the credit and passing all the blame
- Intollerant of different perspectives or viewpoints, always needing to be right
So there’s my list, collected mostly from the feedback of friends. That’s a lot! Do any of them hit home with you? Can you think of others that you have personally experienced? Are there any behaviors you might try to change as a result of this list? If in reading down the list we find ourselves justifying our behavior, unwilling to accept that we might actually be guilty of disrespect, chances are…we have a problem with respecting others.
The good news, I think, is that respect is a contagious virtue. When a few leaders or managers determine to make respecting employees a cultural priority, others will, in time, follow suit. Will you set the example for your organization? Who will you be showing respect to today?
Last modified: April 17, 2023