Career Center Blog

April 30, 2013

How to earn respect at the office

How to earn respect at the office

(Photo: Microsoft Free Clip Art)

Last month, I discussed how employers can build a culture of respect. But how can employees earn respect at work?

Someone I was coaching told me one of her development goals was to "earn the respect of more people at work." I asked her to tell me more about what she meant.

She said, "I just don't feel like people respect me, so I want to earn more respect." When I asked her what behaviors she thought she needed to exhibit to do so, there was a long pause and she gave me a blank stare.

You'd be surprised how many times I get the same response. Here's the deal: respect is something you have to earn. And it's all about the behavior you exhibit -- be it at work or in your personal life.

Here are my suggestions for earning respect:

Look around. Think about the people you respect the most. Why do you respect them? Is it because of their expertise in a certain subject? The calm way they handle themselves in meetings? The way they work with others?

Observe behaviors. When you analyze the behavior of the people you most admire, what do you see? Try to notice specific ways they conduct themselves on a daily basis. Look at how they treat others and how they communicate. Observe how they respond to questions and challenges.

Identify your gaps. After you've observed the people you most admire, think about gaps in your behavior and those you've observed. For example, instead of responding with clarification questions, do you tend to pounce on co-workers when they make negative comments in your direction? Are you generally so frazzled you tell people what to do to overcome issues instead of taking the time to ask questions that will help them figure out solutions themselves?

Practice your new behaviors. They may include listening to understand, not to reply; treating others with dignity and courtesy; keeping all of your commitments, and never making one you can't keep; and realizing that most people want to do what's right.

Practice compassion. The Dalai Lama once said, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Practicing compassion takes the ability to be patient, be generous with your time and sincerely care about others.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., a career-coaching and business-consulting company. Email her at

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Thanks for your comments! Yes, projecting a professional attitude on the job and exhibiting positive work ethics are excellent ways to establish respect at work.

~ Lisa Quast

Great article. You remind us that while respect is earned, it is a journey - not an activity.



You are very perceptive! Yes, earning respect is an on-going journey and does not happen over night.

Over time, behavior consistency also helps earn respect.

Thanks for your comments!

~ Lisa Quast

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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