Demanding respect is easy to do. There’s not much talent required to tell someone “you must respect me.” Making a demand does not mean, however, that the demand will be met. This week, I demanded from Comcast that my cable, internet and phone work again. They did not meet my demand for immediate action. I had to schedule an appointment (three times). The technician who attended was able to fix the issue and get everything back up. He was not aware of my demand for immediate action and he did not seem motivated upon learning that. He did his job and that was it.
Business owners and managers who demand respect are often surprised by the failure of others to respond to it. They may be shocked, actually, by the sheer insolence demonstrated by staff.
And before you think to offer to me, “Well, they should know that if you want respect, you have to give respect,” consider that most of them know this. These business owners or managers were once subordinate employees, too, and felt that same need for two-way respect. But somehow, once there is a supervisory role offered, time changes their perspective. Why?
Comparison, for starters. Supervisors look to how they acted when dealing with their managers and project that onto the current staff being led. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First off, it’s unlikely that those rose-colored glasses you are looking through are giving you the right, full memories of your time in the cubicles or on the floor. Were you really that angelic towards your manager? You were a model of respect for that supervisor? Really? We tend to remember the best highlights and then use that as the base comparison tool when looking at our team. It sets them up to fail.
And secondly, that comparison is based upon your view of respect. The definition for respect is often one based on child-rearing and authorities in life. Think about how manners and politeness are used interchangeably with respect. While I try to hold a door open for a woman coming into or exiting a room, is that really the same as respecting her? My surface behavior may have been respectful, but nothing more than that. Respect is meant to be deeper than that. And it cannot be based simply upon colloquial definitions and adherence to polite societal norms.
Respect is living and breathing. It is something that has to be fed, cultivated and pruned. Demanding it would be like planting a seed and yelling at it to grow now. Even the best farmers cannot get seeds to grow that way. Similarly, for an owner or manager to stand before his/her charges and demand the same is foolishness.
A company that’s been around for 10 years with an owner who is a jerk is not likely to see a staff that genuinely respects its owner. Time does not predict respect either.
Those in Human Resources often find themselves holding the short end of the stick when it comes to perceived respect. We are the department avoided, the last to know a significant piece of information or overlooked for career advancement within our organizations because sales and other operations-based departments are seen as more relevant of attention. Is that a lack of respect due to manners or politeness? Or is it more about the demonstration of respect given and exercised?
Yes, respect is earned, but it’s earned based upon a demonstration of involvement. And if you’re really doing that, stay the course. Today might not give you the win, but the win is coming. Involvement in the mission, investment in others and a willingness to put effort into results will set a right tone of respect. Demanding it is the simplest way to not be shown it; demonstrating it consistently will secure its offering to you.