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Do you have Your Employees' Respect? – How to Recognize and Fix Broken Relationships

Do you have Your Employees' Respect? – How to Recognize and Fix Broken Relationships

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 5, 2012 Updated: September 19, 2016

Ever feel that your employees don’t respect you?  You may think: “So what!” But that would be a mistake.

The trouble is that when an employee starts to lose respect, your authority and control can quickly be undermined. Even if you are not aware of a problem employee, the effect can be toxic. Productivity levels drop, accountability diminishes, and the problem behavior can spread to others.

Why Do Employees Lose Respect for Their Employers?

Accepting that your employees may not respect you isn’t easy. There can be many reasons for it, some of which come down to you and some may not.  For example, an employee may harbor a grudge after being passed over for a promotion or receiving a poor performance review. Or – and here’s a bitter pill to swallow – maybe your management style doesn’t command respect. 

But I thought I Was a Good Manager?

You don’t have to be an ogre to lose your employees’ respect. Failing to see the signs of stressed employees, having personal favorites, or ignoring the fact that an employee desperately needs training are all actions that can potentially alienate an employee. And, if alienated for too long, employees might just decide you are not worth their respect anymore. This is when problems arise.

What are the Signs of a Problem?

If your employees repeatedly slack off, talk back, or fail to complete tasks on time, then you have a problem. Of course, there may be underlying reasons for their behavior, but the very fact that they believe they can get away with these attitudes might also indicate that you have lost their respect.

Consider this example:

As a relatively new manager, I supervised a young person who began turning up late for work or not at all.  She also wasted time gossiping with team members and missed deadlines. After tolerating repeated excuses for this behavior, it quickly became clear that she’d become comfortable that she was “getting away with it” and had lost all respect for me as a manager.

Once HR had agreed to intervene, we approached the situation thinking that the problem lay squarely at her door.

However, when confronted in a disciplinary meeting, it became clear that my management style played a role in encouraging her behavior. She explained that she was overwhelmed with the workload and that she wasn’t used to my delegation style. Now, this may not sound a good enough reason to skip work and lose respect for your manager, but because my actions caused her stress she became isolated. Even worse, because I allowed her to “get away with” the negative behavior for too long, she perceived me as weak and lost all respect for me.

How to Earn or Win Back Respect

Winning back the respect of an employee like the one just described isn’t easy. In my case, no amount of coaching or adjustment in management style worked and unfortunately a company decision was made to let the employee go. The employee simply wasn’t the right fit or prepared to reinvest herself in the business. Likewise, it was a lesson learned for me about seeing the signs and intervening sooner rather than later.

But there are things you can do to develop, maintain, and even recover the respect of your employees without resorting to disciplinary measures.

Consider the following:

  • Acknowledge the Problem – Use one-on-one or group meetings to make it known that you see the problems and are willing to make adjustments. Be open and prepared for hard discussions and invite feedback. It may be hard to hear, but it shows you are listening.
  • Gauge the Extent of the Problem – Your first step is acknowledging there’s an issue. If you have trusted employees or a mentor, engage their confidence to assess how bad the situation is and what they think you can do to turn things around.
  • Have a Plan – Present your employee(s) with a plan for how things are going to change. This means laying ground rules, both for you and for them. Consider what you can do to earn more respect. Most important of all – show respect to earn respect! Give your employees more frequent face time, empower them through delegation of key tasks, and so on. 
  • Make your Expectations Clear – Explain clearly what you expect in return and that continued disrespect and poor performance will have disciplinary consequences.
  • Follow-Through – Give it time; there are no quick fixes. Have regular reviews with employees and your managers to gauge progress (on both sides).

What leadership strategies have worked for you? Share your tips below!

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley