Some people just walk into a room, and every eye and ear are immediately tuned into them. Is this magic? Doubtful. In reality, that person has worked very hard over the years to gain the respect of the people who work with them. You can earn the respect of the people with whom you work as well. Just take the following actions to ensure respect and subsequently, career success.
Follow the Rules
Sure, on television or in the movies, it's always the rogue cop or the office worker who pushes the limits who wins the rewards and praise. In real life, it's the person who does what they are supposed to do. This is especially important if you're the boss or work in a management role.
The boss who slacks off from working hard in the office, comes in late, leaves early, and spends more time shopping online than working, won't engender respect from the coworkers. While the effect of rule-following isn't as strong among peers, it still plays a critical role. People don't respect people who don't respect the rules.
This is especially true in a workplace where most employees do follow the rules. After all, they were put in place for a reason. Whether to create workplace harmony or to fairly and ethically deal with employees, workplace rules most often are carefully thought out.
This is one area where the television shows get it right—that cop may break all of the rules, but he certainly puts in the hours. Now, working hard doesn't mean you need to work 80 hours a week, but it does mean that you need to work when you're supposed to work.
Working hard also means that you need to spend your work time on work. You won't earn the status of a respected employee if you are viewed by others as a person who steals time from your employer.
Talk Less, Listen More
You may think that the person with the most respect is the one standing at the head of the conference table giving the presentation, but that's not always the case. If you feel as if you always need to talk, you're not likely the most respected person in the room.
People gain respect by actually listening to the ideas of others. This doesn't mean that you can't share your ideas, but it does mean that you need to pay attention to what others are saying.
Remember, you were hired to do your job, and the other employees were hired to do theirs. That may seem like a super basic statement, but, in practical terms, it means that other people are experts on tasks outside of your expertise. So, listen to what they have to say about their area of expertise.
Recognize that, in listening to your coworkers, you treat them with respect. This respect engenders respect for you and what you have to say.
Assume the Best About People and Situations
When the accounts payable person tells you that it will take three days to get the supplier's check cut, don't assume that it's because she's lazy. She may be lazy, but she probably also needs to follow the required processes and procedures that restrict her ability to respond to your timeliness requirements.
Just because you don't understand why or when something happens doesn't mean that a valid reason doesn't exist. You'll want to find out before you come to a false conclusion or assumption.
Apologize and Admit Mistakes
You're not perfect. No one is. You will make mistakes. If you want respect, you need to admit your mistakes. Practice this statement, “I'm sorry. What can I do to fix it?” The last part is critical in many situations—otherwise, the apology is just an empty statement.
If you're the manager, you take the blame for the team's failures as well as your own. If you're an individual contributor, you need to take the blame for your own missteps. A mistake isn't a career-ender. Not admitting that you made a mistake can become a career-ender.
Take Criticism and Learn From It
Having people respect you isn't dependent on people thinking that you're right all of the time. It's about people trusting you and appreciating what you have to say. Just like you need to take your lumps when you make a mistake, you need to listen to what people have to say about you.
Does your boss think your marketing plan stinks? Well, ask the boss why and carefully consider what they have to say. Does your direct report think that your marketing plan stinks? Well, ask why and carefully consider what your staff member has to say.
Those last two lines weren't an accidental repeat of the preceding lines. Whether the criticism comes from above or below you must carefully consider what the person had to say. Go ahead and ask questions. They may be right. They may be dead wrong, but you won't know unless you consider their feedback.
Stand Up for Yourself
This is not a suggestion to let people walk all over you. You can carefully consider criticism and say, “Jane, I heard what you said about the marketing plan not hitting the right target, but I disagree. I believe that my market research shows that blah, blah, blah.”
If someone criticizes your personal appearance, family status, race, gender, whatever, you can certainly call them on it. “I'm sorry, the fact that I look young has what to do with this?” Standing up for yourself is critical to earning respect from coworkers and managers.
On the other side, though, don't go looking for an offense where no offense is intended. If you get upset about every little comment anyone makes, you'll look like a whiner. Some things, you just need to let them go.
Help Other People Succeed
Think about who you respect the most at work. Is it a person who pushed people under the bus right and left on their way to the top? Probably not. (And if it is, please consider getting therapy.) Instead, you undoubtedly respect a person who was kind and helpful.
So, if you want others to respect you, try doing the same. Take time to mentor. Don't get angry when your direct reports, peers, or bosses make mistakes. Just help them get the job done and done right. When you lift up those around you, you all rise together.
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance journalist specializing in Human Resources. Suzanne's work has been featured on notable publications including Forbes, CBS, Business Insider, and Yahoo.