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16 Ways to Lose the Respect of Your Employees

Once you've lost their respect, it's very difficult to get it back--so steer clear of these careless behaviors.
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If the people you work with (or who work for you) don't respect you, they'll question your every decision--and keep one eye on the door as they continually look for somewhere else to work.

Based upon the newly published book "Culture Without Accountability--WTF" by Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, here are some respect-killing behaviors to avoid at all costs:

1. Be disrespectful yourself. 

Expecting other people to respect you when you're disrespecting them is an exercise in futility. With respect, you reap what you sow.

2. Permit disrespect to others. 

Continuing to employ a jerk who disrespects coworkers is the exact same thing as disrespecting them yourself.  Same thing with tolerating disrespectful behavior in a coworker.  Remember: you're always defined by the company you keep.

3. Show up late repeatedly.

While there are legitimate reasons (e.g. a sick child) why even the most responsible person might run late, those few and far between. If you're frequently late, people will know you don't respect them, lowering their respect for you.

4. Fail to meet commitments.  

People don't respect those who are all talk and no action.  While you can miss a deadline or forget a task once in a while, everyone will eventually figure out that you're not accountable and thus unworthy of respect.

5. Become defensive when questioned.  

If you get bent out of shape when somebody points out that you screwed up (like by showing up late), you're telling them that you're not just a screw-up, you're a screw-up with a bad attitude.

6. Cover up your mistakes.

You may think you're smart for hiding the evidence, but the truth has a nasty habit of getting out.  As with any scandal, people view the cover-up as an act of cowardice that's worse than whatever's being covered up.

7. Deflect blame onto others.

Blaming somebody else for your mistakes is worse than trying to cover them up, because somebody else ends up taking the heat.  Word will get around that you're both thin-skinned and shifty.

8. Ask people to lie for you.

When you ask people to lie for you (like to get out of an irksome task), you're communicating two things: 1) you are a liar and 2) you believe the other person is a liar and stupid enough to lie for you.  It's adding insult to insult.

9. Do the bare minimum.

You may think you're being smart but rest assured that "people are noticing your laziness, and it will affect your reputation, which can lead to very negative consequences in your professional life," explains Miller.

10. Provide a lame excuse.

"The dog ate my homework" is sort of cute when a school kid says it. When a professional says it, not so much. Look, everyone knows that you didn't really have "a flat tire." Expecting them to believe it just makes you look stupid.

11. Brown nose.  

There are few things more disgusting than watching somebody else kissing up to a boss, a colleague, or a customer.  Even the person on the other end of the brown nosing usually thinks it's creepy. Yuck!

12. Gossip.  

Spreading stories about the personal lives of the people you work with tells everyone that 1) you can't be trusted with a secret and 2) you'll be gossiping about them at the first opportunity.

13. Expect an "A for Effort."

You're accountable for your results, not your activities.  In fact, you should be graded down even further if you expended a great deal of effort without creating useful results.

14. Require reminding.

If people must email you repeatedly to get you to do something (like give them the feedback your promised), you might as well wear a nametag reading "Not Worthy of Respect."

15. Be a victim. 

Is there anything more pitiful than being the person who's always part of the problem and never part of the solution?  Yes, there is something more pitiful: being the person who's always complaining about the problem.  Argh!

16. Adopt a "me-first" attitude.  

Cutting in line, phone-yakking in public, smoking around non-smokers, and so forth, tells people that you're inconsiderate, selfish, and maybe even dishonest.

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IMAGE: Kaytee Riek/Flickr
Last updated: Jan 29, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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