Why you might not be getting the respect you want at work, and how to make sure that you do in the future. Hint: it’s a two-way street

By Jane Burnett

Excelling at a fast-paced job can be challenging — especially when you feel like you’re not being respected enough for your ideas and contributions.
But how do you earn the respect of those you work with? And how do you deal with public displays of disrespect?

Remember that respect is a two-way street

If you want to know why you might not be getting the respect you want, stop and think: are you doing anything to disrespect others?
Some of the top offenders include interrupting others while they’re speaking, refusing to admit your mistakes and criticizing others publicly.

“Interrupting others while they’re speaking … is the ultimate sign of disrespect. So stop doing it. Immediately. Bite your tongue and spend your time listening to understand, not to reply,” business consultant Lisa Quast writes in Forbes,
While you can add your two cents after hearing the other person out, it’s better to give them the floor and actively try to understand their perspective instead of talking over them.

Another red flag? Refusing to admit your mistakes — or worse, blaming them on others — is a surefire way to make people lose respect for you.

“If you pretend that you’ve never done anything wrong and then find ways to excuse your failures or blame them on others, you’ll lose the respect of everyone,” professional development expert Jeff Havens, author of the book “Unleash Your Inner Tyrant!” writes in Fast Company. “Failure is only failure when you don’t learn anything from it, and you can’t learn anything when you pretend that you never actually failed.”

Other big offenders: treating people poorly because their titles are lower than yours, only looking out for your own self-interest, refusing to listen to suggestions from others and creating a toxic work environment.

In Dale Carnegie’s seminal book, “How to Make Friends and Influence People,” he writes of a tyrant boss who eventually became willing to learn how to change his ways.

“For years he had driven and criticized and condemned his employees without stint or discretion. Kindness, words of appreciation and encouragement were alien to his lips,” Carnegie explains in the book, “After studying the principles discussed in this book, this employer sharply altered his philosophy of life. His organization is now inspired by a new loyalty, a new enthusiasm, a new spirit of teamwork.”

After all, no one wants to deal with a bully at work.

Be humble, but not insecure

There’s a difference between being grounded and groveling.
If you are constantly putting yourself down in an effort to appear humble, you might run the risk of losing the respect of others, who could mistake your self-effacement for insecurity.

“Be willing to admit your flaws, but do not focus on them. You should have some self-depreciation, but it should be paired with self-confidence,” Entrepreneur and author Peter Daisyme, co-founder of free web platform Hostt, writes in Entrepreneur.”People generally will not respect a leader who appears insecure and continuously mentions their shortcomings. Show your human side but maintain a sense of bravado and self-assurance.”

So, if you’re constantly talking about what you don’t understand or what you’re not good at, people might start to believe you.

Displaying confidence can go a long way.

Let your work speak for itself, and take pride in your accomplishments. Others will see your enthusiasm and respond positively.

Avoid sending mixed messages

Empty promises are a respect-killer in the workplace. If your coworkers can’t count on you to follow through, they’re going to eventually stop listening.
“What you actually do matters much more than what you say you’re going to do. Anyone can talk a big game or over-promise, but the actual follow-through is what creates lasting success,” writes web designer and bestselling author Paul Jarvis.
Entrepreneur and author Kevin Daum writes that leaders should “be consistent” to get respect.

“If you find you lack credibility, it’s probably because you are saying one thing and doing another. People do pay attention to what you say until you give them reason not to by doing the opposite. You don’t have to be predictable, just don’t be a hypocrite,” Daum writes in Inc.

Don’t micromanage

Hovering — literally or metaphorically— is not effective.
“Effective delegation is an important part of becoming a good leader,” Cheri Swales writes on “Understand that employees are looking to develop their skills, so when you delegate, give them an important task to accomplish. Then stand back and let them figure out how to do it. When you tell employees how to do the task, they feel mistrusted and perhaps worthless. It is difficult to trust a leader who can’t let go,” Swales writes.

Jane Burnett is a reporter for Ladders. She is based in New York City and can be reached at

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