Respect: Expected and Earned

There are different types of respect: basic (given) and utmost (earned). First, we will discuss basic respect, which should be treated as an expectation and natural right. You never have to earn the kind of respect that keeps you safe from discomfort and harm. Furthermore, should one fall victim to harassment or bullying (which denies basic respect), that victim is never at fault and did not “bring it upon themselves.” That sort of disrespectful, inappropriate behavior should never be tolerated anywhere, but particularly in a professional environment.

Given the often hierarchical structure of most workplaces, some employees may feel a sense of entitlement and/or carry themselves with a “better than” attitude because they may see their position as more authoritative and powerful than another’s. This is not always the case, but when this kind of attitude is present and unchecked, it can be used to justify denying co-workers both basic and earned respect. It is important to know your worth and not accept your job position, or your gender, or your age, or your race, or your size, or any other person characteristic as valid reason that earning respect should be any harder or easier on you. Standards for gaining basic respect and earning utmost respect (also referred to as positive regard and admiration) should be universal.

Unfortunately, it is generally true that there are unfair challenges present when trying to earn respect (especially for members of oppressed groups). Although it can be frustrating to feel like you’re in a constant battle to prove yourself, there are lots of different ways to increase your earned positive regard:

  • Work competency and job performance. This often includes work quality, flexibility, timeliness, dependability, clear communication, etc.
  • Outlook and mature attitude. In other words, how considerate and friendly you are and generally how you make your co-workers and clients feel (even when dealing with negative situations).
  • Integrity and confidence. This entails sticking up for your values in a way that prevents folks from taking advantage of you, but that does not seem stubborn or arrogant and does not prevent progress.
  • Defying expectations. Show people that you cannot be stereotyped, by being the wonderful and unique person that you are.

Each of these different contributions can earn your co-workers’ appreciation and high regard. Of course this list is non-exhaustive, as many different contributions are valued in the work place. What are the ways your own co-workers can earn your admiration? Has a co-worker ever expressed to you the qualities you possess which earned their positive regard? If so, what are those things? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments space below.

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