How to get employees to respect you

Figuring out how to get employees to respect you is essential for any leader. As history will tell you, respect is earned, not given. But even if you feel like an outsider within your team, there are always ways to earn trust and respect. This is essential if you want to reach your goals and create a positive work environment.

Enforce rules fairly and consistently

As a manager, I’ve often come across situations where someone asked me to change a rule for them. And depending on the situation, I’ve seriously considered it before. But when it comes to enforcing rules, employees will respect you more if you implement them fairly and consistently.

In my experience, if you encounter a scenario where a rule is unfair or discriminatory, the best course of action is to escalate it to the HR team. Because if that’s the case, you’ll likely need to push for the policy to change.

A good rule of thumb to ask yourself when fielding employee requests is:

“If I say yes to this request, will I have to say yes to everyone who asks the same question.”

If the answer is yes, think hard about how you proceed. Enforcing workplace policies consistently on all your employees is the best way to keep their respect. Make concessions, and you might lose it.

Understand the process

How can you manage a team well if you don’t fully understand what they do? Good leaders earn respect by proving their mastery of the process.

When I worked in a packing warehouse, I remember changing the roll of tape of one of the packing lines while my employees went on break. I remember one of them coming up to me and saying that they’d never seen a manager do that before. I was shocked! Certainly, changing the roll of tape wasn’t something you could learn to do correctly without asking for help. But it was important to me to know how to do it so that I could understand that area of the process better.

Your employees will respect you more when they know that you can do what they do. And more importantly—that you’re willing to do it if necessary!

Believing you’re above any task within your department is a sure way to turn employees off your leadership. And it just makes you a less effective leader in general. If you want respect, start by learning the ins and outs of your employees’ work.

Own your mistakes and failures

When you make an error that affects the department’s performance or your employees’ experience, own up to it. Oftentimes, when employees complain about the outcome of a poor leadership choice, all they want is for you to acknowledge it. Being willing to do so goes a long way toward building trust with your team.

But admitting failures is also beneficial to your personal development as a leader. Because if you want to perform at the top level, you have to be able to learn from mistakes. You can’t learn from mistakes you don’t acknowledge.

Reducing the number of mistakes you make

It’s important to note that while admitting failures is essential for earning employee respect, it can hurt your relationships. If you’re constantly making mistakes, especially ones that affect your workers’ experience, they might begin to respect you less.

At the end of the day, workers need to know that you’re competent enough to run the department. If they can’t trust your decision-making skills, then they’ll start to just do whatever they think is best.

Reduce the number of mistakes you make by deep diving each one and implementing personal control measures to prevent them from happening again. Here are some things I’ve done in the past to fix issues on my team:

  • Reset expectations for specific policies and procedures
  • Improve my communication skills
  • Implement a schedule for completing admin tasks
  • Take detailed notes when talking to workers

There is ALWAYS something you can do to change your approach and produce a different outcome. Demonstrating your resolve and learning from your mistakes will earn you more respect and help drive your team’s goals.

Offer support and be understanding

Your employees aren’t robots. They’re people with lives and problems outside of work. As a leader, you can get employees to respect you by being supportive and understanding. Even if you can’t help an employee solve a problem, you can still offer them support. Here’s what that looks like:

  • Allowing someone to take a quick break to gather their emotions
  • Speaking in a calm voice, even when someone is upset
  • Providing solutions if you can
  • Acknowledging that you understand the situation

When you respect your employees, they’ll reciprocate that respect right back to you. Always default to being an understanding person, even if you can’t do anything to change the situation.

Celebrate individual and group accomplishments

Taking the “all work, no play” approach might work for some people. But it’s certainly not the mindset of the average worker. Celebrating the accomplishments of your team and specific individuals is a great way to create a positive work environment.

And by dedicating yourself to the positives, you’re also showing that you recognize the hard work that your team is doing. Workers will respect you more if they feel appreciated and valued. Here are some ways you can recognize your team’s efforts:

  • Start an Employee of the Month award
  • Give shoutouts to top performers at standup meetings
  • Write thank you notes and letters to your workers
  • Create a team newsletter than provides shoutouts

Invest in your team’s success

Nothing says “I respect you” more than investing in the success and development of your employees. You can do this in so many ways, but here are a few examples:

  • Sponsoring coursework for degrees or certifications
  • Upgrading the tools your employees use
  • Giving promotions and bonuses
  • Adopting software solutions that make everyday tasks easier
  • Providing additional training to enhance your team’s skillset

Showing that you’re invested in your employees’ journey gives them more reason to respect you. Implementing one or all of these strategies will help you create a positive and encouraging work environment. This will not only help you meet your goals, but it will also allow you to improve as a leader and to build lifelong relationships with the people on your team.