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How to Show Respect in the Workplace

Posted on October 17, 2019
A round circle with the image of two hands shaking (as in colleagues) surrounded by the word respect in different sizes with the color of the letters ranging from red, brown, to orange and gold.


The late Aretha Franklin's famous song, "Respect" is all about respecting a loved one, and doubt anyone would disagree that we have to enter into and maintain all relationships with respect, even our business relationships. But what does it mean to respect our colleagues? How do we actively show respect?

Value Their Perspective

We have to value our colleague's perspective, especially when it differs from ours - this not only breeds a thoughtful discussion, it also can foster creativity and innovation. The reality, if we do not value the perspective of our colleagues, we cannot expect anyone to respect ours.

Be Punctual

Punctuality may sound obvious or to some maybe trivial - after all, everyone is late once in a while, right? In all honesty, very few notice when someone is on time, and they certainly don't think, "Oh, it's so nice Bill is punctual, and it shows he respects me." However, when you are late, and don't reach out to let others know you are running late, it will be viewed as disregarding another's time, effort, or even goals, which is disrespectful.

Avoiding Negative Chatter

Water cooler talk about others is the ultimate form of disrespect. Gossip may seem humorous or enticing in the moment, but it hurts, and it can derail someone's career, so avoid it. But showing respect demands you take it a step further and shut it down.

Hold Them Accountable

When you truly respect someone, you want them to succeed and sometimes that carries with it the burden of telling your colleague when they messed up. And when you respect your colleagues and they've made a mistake or failed in some manner, it also means supporting them in owning it and fixing it.

I'm big on reflection because, when honest, we get a glimpse into ourselves and how we act, respond, engage, interact, etc. Thinking and reflecting on how you show respect, and disrespect, to your colleagues can be a valuable exercise. Think about your close colleagues, but also think about those colleagues with whom you only occasionally interact with, as well as above and below you on the corporate ladder. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Do I engage in office gossip?
  • How often do I speak up and stop office gossip?
  • Do I listen to my colleagues or do I look at my phone or think about my next meeting?
  • Do I engage with those below me, facilities staff or administrative assistants?
  • Do I give my colleagues the opportunity to speak and share their perspective or do I shut them down?
  • Am I on time to meetings or am I perpetually late?
  • How do I act when I disagree with someone?
  • What do I do to get my way?

There are hundreds of other questions you can ask yourself to gain a deeper understanding of how you display respect or disrespect. Take some time and reflect on it. Remember, if you want others to respect you, then you have to show respect for them and if you disrespect others, ultimately others will disrespect you.


Anne Converse Willkomm

Assistant Clinical Professor Department Head of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University

Posted in interpersonal-communications