Practical Ways to Respect People

What matters is not your stated respect for people but your revealed respect for people. Here are some ideas that I collected on how to practice respect for people.

  • Don’t waste people’s time: have meetings only when necessary and provide agendas in advance. Use email effectively instead of presenting material in meetings that can better be presented in email. Don’t have complex benefit manuals, aimed at making lawyers happy, that employees are expected to use.
  • Do what you say you will.
  • Provide bad news early (don’t hope it will get fixed somehow so you don’t have to address it, let people know what is going on and let them help).
  • Pay people fairly – I would venture to say most senior executive pay today is inherently disrespectful, If I am wrong about the “most” part, certainly a huge amount executive pay is inherently disrespectful.
  • Put the long term success of all stakeholders as the focus (don’t risk people’s jobs for short term bonuses, don’t use large amounts of leverage risking the future of the company…). Respect all stakeholders and provide them confidence their long term success is important. Companies that find themselves laying off workers due to management’s failure to succeed over the long term are not being respectful to those workers. That failure is most obvious today, but the important improvement is not in handling the layoff today, it is in the behavior for years before that did not build a system that was successful in the long term.
  • Tell people what they can do to improve. It is respectful to help people improve. Not mentioning weaknesses that should be worked on is treating a person like a child that needs to be shielded from any hint of criticism.
  • Don’t expect a few people to do far more than their fair share of work because management allows poor performance to continue un-addressed.
  • Assist people when they need help.
  • Provide encouragement when people try new things. Support risk taking. Support and build upon their natural intrinsic motivation.
  • Provide the right tools to do the job (don’t expect people to work with and overcome: outdated machines, poor software applications, or bad management systems).
  • Don’t Treat People How You Want to be Treated. One specific example: let work that requires complex thinking protection from interruption (even if your work requires dealing with many interruptions – as much managerial work does).

Related: Good Process Improvement PracticesHow to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept Adopted

I wrote the rough draft for this post a couple years ago (and finally got around to finishing it off). Not exactly a great one-piece flow, non-multitasking example.

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12 Responses to Practical Ways to Respect People

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  2. Steven M says:

    Fantastic advice, John, with some great examples.

    Many managers think trust and loyalty come with being in their position, that they deserve such things regardless, but those particular managers need to understand and realise that if they do not respect their staff then they will not be seen as trustworthy and will not receive much loyalty. You get what you give – if you show respect to your staff, they will return it in kind.

  3. That’s a good list. I particularly like provide bad news early. I think people tell themselves “I have to wait to see how everything will play out” or “maybe I can combine it with some good news, if it ever comes” or whatever excuse they can concoct to avoid giving the bad news. But bad news should be delivered early.

    I wrote about how we get respect for people wrong here:

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