One of the key characteristics I’ve found missing in the workplace is respect. From my management experience, the people who I promote are those who can respect each other when challenges arise or when things don’t go their way. It’s the leaders who respect me even when they disagree with me who I want to go above and beyond for.
In the last few weeks the saying “ok boomer” has become part of pop culture, and it’s this kind of thinking that is tearing workplaces apart. Just like it’s not ok for seasoned management to say things like “all millennials are entitled and lazy,” it’s not ok to assume that older coworkers are stupid or out of touch. If you want to be respected in the workplace, you have to offer it yourself. It could become the differentiator that gets you promoted.
Be willing to listen
Nothing is more frustrating to working women than feeling like they’re unheard. Because I want to feel heard, I do my best to make sure my employees and my manager know I’ve listened to them. This doesn’t mean I agree with everything they’ve said, but I want to make it very clear that I’m attentive to their needs and concerns. I constantly have to work at this but it’s a priority for me at work. You shouldn’t be concerned about where someone falls on the org chart when you’re listening. Everyone deserves this kind of respect.
Once I was pulled aside by a senior partner at my company and he wanted to thank me for coming down to the basement where the creative team’s desks were. He told me that in his more than a decade at the company, no one in my department had made the designers feel as much a part of the team as I had. I was honestly in shock because I thought it was just part of my job, but I was helping them feel heard in a unique and new way. It was a good lesson for me to learn and something I never want to stop doing.
If you become known for being a person that people can confide in it will help you more than most soft skills you can develop in your career.
Stand up for your coworkers and employees
It’s never ok for your fellow employees to feel disrespected at work, and it’s never ok to participate in gossip or to demean someone you work with. Sadly this is something that happens too often in the workplace. I like to say that “girls gossip, women work,” because nothing reminds me more of junior high than when workplace drama distracts from the work at hand. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in it and stand up for what’s right if you overhear something that isn’t ok.
I had an employee who prided herself for being the center of office gossip. She always knew what was going on in everyone’s personal life. Once I told her I found it distracting from her amazing abilities and the actual work she did it was so cool to watch her transformation. Instead of whispering behind closed doors and knowing who was about to quit, she channelled that energy into her client work and it showed. I promoted her just a few months later.
Being an advocate for the people you work with isn’t just the right thing to do, it will pay off for your career.
Don’t allow others to disrespect you
When you allow others to be rude to you in the workplace you enable that kind of behavior and culture. You can’t take everything personally, but you also need to be careful not to allow others to treat you poorly. Once I came to my manager with a very concerning issue and he laughed at my concerns. I was not ok with being laughed at when I was genuinely worried. I politely told my boss I wasn’t ok with him laughing, said I didn’t want to discuss the issue further and left his office. He came to me later and was really frustrated and I again calmly stated that when I bring a problem to my boss I’m not ok with feeling mocked.
After this experience, I started to realize that the culture of the company in general not only enabled this kind of behavior, it was encouraged. I realized that it wasn’t a good fit and I recognized that everyone deserves to work somewhere that they feel respected.
It’s our job to lead out on how people should be treated at work. It’s up to you to set a standard for the people around you to feel heard, respected and to stand up for yourself if necessary.