Does Respect Have to be earned in the workplace?


Respect in the workplace is important at all times.
Respect in the workplace is important at all times.

We have all heard someone proffer the advice that “respect has to be earned.” I hear that from CEO’s who like to “run a tight ship.” My question is that really the case, does respect really have to be earned?
My answer
I feel that is backwards thinking. I think everyone deserves respect from the get-go. When I meet someone for the first time I accord them respect. I shake their hand. I don’t refuse to stick my hand out and say to them “Sorry, you haven’t earned my respect yet, so I will not shake your hand.” That would be absurd. So why would we tell a new employee that respect in the workplace must be earned?
I feel that one of the best ways to make a new employee feel welcomed is to accord them respect. That respect should continue through their entire tenure with the company.
How to demonstrate respect
There are varying definitions of what respect is, you can find one here and another here. To me showing respect means:

  • You tell the truth
  • You don’t demean or belittle someone due to some trait they possess
  • You show consideration of their time (I hate being late for appointments)
  • You listen to their opinion, even if you don’t agree
  • You allow them their say
  • You don’t have them do things you would not be willing to do yourself.

I am sure there are many more ways to show respect and I would be happy to entertain other suggestions. Please leave them as a comment.
Are their times where you should disrespect someone?
Remember that phrase I started off with, “someone must earn respect”? There are times when you can lose respect for someone. They have stolen from you, they have lied to you, the have cheated you or some other action that has shown that they don’t respect you. Does this mean you should no longer show them respect? Does this give you the green light to lie and cheat them? My answer to that is “no.” Should you fire them? Probably so but in doing so you must still show them some respect. Respect and dignity are two important components of any termination process. More often than not they will save you from a lawsuit. It is not always easy to do, believe me I know, but keeping your “cool” can often help you avoid messy.
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