Respect is hard to earn, and just as hard to keep, but it's a necessary element for almost any professional relationship. With more respect comes more trust, more appreciation, and more value--making respect one of the most valuable commodities in the business world. Getting your boss to respect you can put you in line for a great ongoing professional relationship, and possibly more tangible incentives like raises or promotions.
Of course, the best way to earn respect is to do good work, but there are other behaviors and habits you must exhibit if you want to be on the best possible terms with your boss.
These seven are some of the most important:
1. Make good on your promises. Anyone can promise anything they want. It takes a real professional to actually deliver on that promise. If your boss asks you to deliver a three-day project in two days, it's better to admit it will take you three days to make it perfect than to say two days is no problem and miss the deadline or deliver sub-par quality work because you were rushed. There are two components to doing this effectively, drawn from the common adage "under-promise and over-deliver." First, never promise more than you can actually do--shoot for less. Then, always deliver more than you said you would. Do this consistently, and your boss will come to trust and rely on you.
2. Own up to things that go wrong. Excuses are cheap. When something goes wrong with a project or with a client, it can be tempting to find reasons for the hiccup--for example, the package delivery system might have delivered a day late (beyond your control). But instead of always blaming problems on external forces, show leadership by admitting when you've failed at something. Take ownership of your problems, and don't be afraid to face the consequences. It shows confidence, integrity, and honesty--we all make mistakes, but only some of us are willing to pay for them. Be a part of that minority.
3. Identify solutions instead of problems. No business is perfect, and throughout the course of your career, you'll notice dozens of big things and hundreds of little things that are wrong and could be improved. For example, you might find yourself overloaded with reports due at the beginning of each month. Rather than coming to your boss with problems, come with solutions already in mind. For example, you might suggest that half your reports be delegated to mid-month or end-month reporting to smooth out your workload a little better. It shows forethought and a genuine desire to improve--not just complain.
4. Start your own initiatives. Instead of only adhering to your formally outlined responsibilities and the tasks conferred to you by higher-ups, make it a point to start some of your own initiatives. For example, you could design a new type of marketing campaign that your company has never pursued before, or you could revise some outdated processes to ensure your company's documentation is up-to-date. Bosses tend to respect people who take it upon themselves to make improvements and take charge of new initiatives. If those initiatives make the company more efficient or more profitable, you'll win bonus points.
5. Speak up. In meetings or just in informal conversation, bosses respect people who aren't afraid to speak their minds. That doesn't mean you need to fill every silence with the sound of your own voice, but it does mean openly expressing your opinion whenever it counts to do so--even if that opinion isn't perfectly in line with everyone else's. Good bosses respect people who express themselves honestly, despite whether they agree with the opinions expressed. Alternative perspectives give depth to the topic at hand, and can illuminate possible pain points, possible solutions, and possible options that might not have otherwise been addressed.
6. Get along with people. This point is more subtle, since you aren't making positive efforts so much as you're avoiding negative ones. Try your best to get along with the people in your office. Say hi. Make small talk. Help out when people need you. Don't be annoying or abrasive. Your boss can pick up on office dynamics--easily--and if you're one of the few who can get along with anybody, he/she will respect you more as a result. Also try to get along with your boss on a personal level--just don't be sycophantic about it.
7. Fix things before they find out. Bosses have enough on their plates to worry about. They don't need to see problems from you coming up every other day. Never cover up your problems--this isn't about hiding problems from getting discovered. It's about proactively trying to solve them before your boss needs to step in. Give your boss a status update after you've put an action plan into effect, but limit the number of times you actively request his/her help. The fewer headaches you give your boss, while successfully solving the problem you have, the more respect you'll earn.
If you can incorporate these habits into your working life and consistently perform well in your position, you'll inevitably earn the respect of your bosses, supervisors, and even your coworkers. Some bosses might take longer to develop respect than others, but these qualities are universal and undeniable. If you act professionally, make your boss's life easier, and go out of your way to improve things, there's nothing to stop you from commanding the respect you deserve.