I guess everybody has used the word respect. And to 90% you have used it to demand respect for yourself or your opinion.
A tiny 10% may in the first place actually paid respect without thinking about themselves.
And to be quite honest I haven’t thought about all the different aspects of respect myself. And when I listened recently to a HBR podcast on the topic, I realised how simplistic my view on respect was. I’m using past tense as I hope I have learnt a bit along the way.
Owed versus Earned
The 2 fundamentally different types of respect are based on common courtesy (owed) and actual performance and behaviour (earned).
Common courtesy starts with greeting everybody in the team in the morning and not just best buddies. It continues in discussions with letting people finish speaking as well as contributing to the discussion by acknowledging what has been said before adding ones own opinion. The latter one is even harder than the first when you have got something to say that trumps everything else!
Common courtesy has been lost in many situations. How many of you have a similar challenge to me when at home the family dinner is interrupted by mobile phone use or people not waiting til everybody has finished?
What about the lunch break at work? Lunch meetings? Eating at your desk?
There is another aspect of owed respect, too. This is based on individuality. Not everybody has the same openness, finds the same things funny, or has the same confidence to try something new or different. In extreme situations this can become bullying or even harassment without intent but through carelessness.
“Can you touch my skin here, I think I have lump.” sounds even more wrong without context. Realty was a female colleague asking a male after she bumped her hand. However the male colleague was feeling trapped between helping an honest question and potential wrong doing in touching a females colleagues hand.
Earned respect you might think is much easier to handle. Less problems with cultural and individual differences instead you can rely on analytical measurable results. Hey, I’m more analytical and cultural so I should know better… But it’s not that clear cut either. I have for example a range of engineers in the team, some are at the start of their careers while some have quite some experience behind their belt. My expectations for how they handle a similar task would be quite different. A senior person would receive a genuine thank you for a timely completion. A junior person will likely get a well done in front of the team.
Respect is as well shown at remuneration level. I had 2 team members who for some reason were well under their salary band. However, they performed on the level. Admittedly I was surprised that my argument to lift their salary was not a bureaucratic nightmare nor was it hampered by HR or management resistance. In the contrary HR actively assisted to get this right and my CFO accepted the proposal after a 10 minute discussion.
A lot of fluffiness you may think, a lot of intangibles that are not adding up to the bottomline. Research and practice shows that is not the case. To the contrary, staff that is treated well is more loyal to the organisation and treats their direct customers with the same courtesy and respect you treat them. Respect tells a story either positively or it can destroy an image quickly.