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Not feeling respected by someone? Here’s what to do.

Not feeling respected by someone? Here’s what to do.

The number one thing that will garner respect is knowledge and experience that you earned by doing what’s hard. It’s easy to point the finger of blame at someone else when you’re not feeling respected by them, but there are things you can do about it. After almost twenty years as a manager and leader, and then almost twenty years as an executive coach, I can tell you that most people don’t grasp the fact that they have numerous points of view that are not based on enough knowledge and experience. Essentially, they don’t know - what they don’t know. Then when they express their view and don’t get the respect they want, the easiest thing to do is blame the other person and stubbornly claim they are right. 


Here’s my rule of thumb whenever I start to feel an appropriate amount of respect is not coming my way. Before I point the finger of blame at the other person, I’ve learned to first examine the other four fingers pointed at ME. What have I missed? Is there something more I could do before deflecting blame onto someone else?

This rule of thumb works in two directions. If I’m tempted to blame someone who reports to me or is a vendor, I walk through the steps to examine how well I have led the path to success (or not).  If I’m tempted to blame someone who has more authority than I do, I also walk the steps to examine what I can do to help them see what I think they are missing. Taking this depth of responsibility in both directions is truly one of the things that got me to the top so quickly in my career and for the last decade, has kept me humble as a CEO who never stops learning that I might be wrong. 

Finger # 1:  How clear have I been about what success looks like?  

As leaders, we are the ones responsible for leading our domain of expertise. As such, we also have to be able to make a logical business case for the things we believe in. This rule of thumb requires education and never-ending application of curiosity and learning. Those under us need to do the same, and we don’t have to be an expert in their domain, but we’d better have enough knowledge to ask good questions and drill down to understand enough to challenge them. Or ask them to go make a business case for their point of view if we don’t agree. When we try to lead them and don’t do that, they can feel disrespected. You can seem aloof and uninterested if you don’t do a little digging and tell them what success looks like in a very clear way. What do you think needs to happen in order to feel they are a success? It’s up to us to paint that picture so we don’t leave them helpless trying to read our minds. 

Finger # 2: Do they have the resources and training they need to be successful?

Resources: Our direct reports need to be resourceful and figure out how to work with the resources we’ve given them, but I am a big believer that we must also give them autonomy (even P & L responsibility) if at all possible, and ask them to manage the budget in the most efficient way they can. Then let them decide what to invest in and what to save on. As long as they are clear what success looks like, what does it matter how they get there if it’s moral and well-managed. This encourages taking initiative, having to think wisely about how to ensure they scale their time and more. We can’t manage their money for them and then tell them they are responsible for the outcomes. That’s responsibility without authority. And it’s one of the first rules I learned as a young leader. Never take on responsibility unless I have also been given the authority to make key decisions about resources, including who to hire and manage. 

Training: In order to perform well, people have to be learning and challenged. If we are not giving them opportunities to learn and grow, they will quickly become disengaged. If someone on my team wants to go to a domain specific conference, course or experience, I do everything in my power to ensure they can go. At least once or twice a year, they need to be able to go to exchange ideas and learn from those in their field. It keeps them fresh, exposes them to new trends, gives them contacts that can help them and essentially motivates them to come back to their day job, excited and fresh. Ready to tackle the new vision that came from experts in their space. When I was younger, this kind of experience was a huge motivation factor for me each year. People who get bored tend to leave. I’ve never forgotten that. 

Finger # 3:  Are they the right fit for the role I have put them in?  

If they are still not performing it’s possible they are not a good fit for the role and are acting out of frustration, and it isn’t about lack of effort. Poor fit is a problem WE as leaders have created by selecting someone who is wrong for the role we’ve given them. There are lots of ways a person can be a poor fit. They may lack the interest. They may lack the skills and abilities. They may be a poor cultural fit. They may be a wrong style fit for the common behaviors required for the role. If any of these things are true, there’s no doubt they will begin to act out in counterproductive behaviors. Instead of blaming the person, the wisest thing to do is notice the fit problems, discuss them and help the person make a choice of their own to choose a better fit for them. It’s a truly legitimate reason people can be very unhappy in a role. And often we’re the one who promoted or recruited them into that role without much discernment. So it’s our problem to solve too. For the benefit of all of the others around them who are suffering because we made the wrong decision about giving the team the best talent for each role or function. 

Finger # 4: Have I invested in my relationship with them? 

Lastly, I like to check myself on this all-important reminder of the #1 reason people leave jobs. If they don’t feel they have a good connection with their supervisor, feel supported and understood, they are highly likely to leave and take their talents elsewhere. It’s easy to get lazy and take this all-important investment of time for granted. Good relationships must be nurtured and your team needs to know that we appreciate and support their efforts. This can only happen by interacting regularly and asking questions, removing obstacles, clarifying the vision and caring about their life in general. It’s really about mentoring and nurturing their growth continuously. It’s also important to do this without encouraging dependence on authority figures, so we also have to be coachlike and ask them to think for themselves. Don’t give them the answers before they have grappled with their own ideas about how to do things. I find every generation does things differently and reverse mentoring is helpful to me. There’s always something to learn as a leader too. 

And finally, if I’ve done my best to cover the four fingers pointing back at myself, then it’s time to decide if that person truly isn’t living up to their own end of the bargain and truly to own some accountability from my counseling. By the time I’ve put some serious effort into the four areas above, I am feeling satisfied that the one recourse is to handle it myself and do the right thing for the team. Or for myself if I am the one feeling disrespected. Mutual respect isn’t something we get just because of our role. It happens only if we take it seriously and do our homework.