Respect is the Key


May 7, 2013

 I’m going to give you the answer first, then all the questions.

The answer is RESPECT.

And now, the questions:

  • What is the key to success?
  • What motivates employees to come to work and really give it their all?
  • What is the one thing that managers can give that has no cost but is worth more than anything?
  • What is the one thing that when missing will cause employees to leave your company?

In business, we talk endlessly about how employees can be more productive.  We envision the ways that we can develop their skills, give them challenging projects, and turn them into the superstars of the team.  What we don’t talk enough about is respect.  Respect can have varying meanings to each of us, but basically it is the act of treating someone with esteem and holding them in high regard.

Here’s the challenge

I want you to think about respect today.

And tomorrow.

And the next day.

I want you to think about the tone of voice you use with your spouse or significant other, your children, your boss, your employee, your colleagues, and people you interact with in public.  I want you to just make an effort to really go out of your way to show respect.  Listen more, be attentive, be open to hearing someone else’s ideas, and instead of assuming the worst about someone, assume the best.

That’s what I’ll be doing with my time…won’t you join me?


  • Kudos Trish! Another great post. Siging the praises of the Aretha Franklin song. R E S P E C T! We can all do better with this. I am taking your challenge as well/

  • And remember that respect is best when mutual. I’d also remind everyone that their manager is a human being too.

  • Great post and great comments so far. I’ll add to the list neighbors, Bus drivers and your local barista. Now I am going to have Aretha singing in my head all day long. I’ll close the door to my office so no one catches me dancing as well.

  • In order for this to work, I think one has to start with respecting people at their foundation – as human-beings with unalienable rights to be treated fairly and with kindness. If you look for things to respect above this level, it gets a little trickier. I’m glad you’re reminding us to be deliberate about it, though. Thanks.

  • I think this is practical life advice, not just practical HR Leadership advice. 🙂 Fantastic – we need more companies to adopt this method of thinking.

  • Trish,
    A good post and thank you for pointing out how important respect is. You said, “Respect can have varying meanings to each of us.” True, and I differ with you only in that I believe that respect on an individual basis has to be earned.

    You can’t justify an expectation of respect because of your title or your role or your relationship.

    I agree with Charlie that it gets trickier when you expect it on a higher level. He really said it all. Be kind and treat people fairly. Show kindness and be courteous to everyone from the gentlemen sweeping the floors as you leave the office to the customer service person helping you with a return.

    I’m open to your ideas and I’ll assume the best about you. You give me reasons to respect you as an individual and I’m yours

  • Well said Trish!

    Too many people in the UK and US have gotten used to respecting fame and celebrity, not endeavour and principles, and recognising material possessions over contribution.

    It would be great if we could all encourage a re-alignment in attitudes and learn to respect the contributions that everyone makes!

  • It’s strange. Respect is the simplest and cheapest thing to do, yet it’s the most difficult to accomplish. There is not usually a need for a reminder to be a profitable organization or to think of ways to increase productivity, but there is a need to remind people to be respectful.

  • Gr8 article! But what do you do/how do you continue to work for someone who doesn’t respect their employees (the tone, the condescending remarks, the attitude, the ego…)?

    • @Karen- Thanks you for taking time to comment.

      @Shennee- Sing it Aretha!

      @HRD- Good point. It has to be mutual for the relationship to truly work.

      @April- Right, employees rarely leave just for money or for other reasons (i.e. “better opportunity”). They only look for better opportunity when they are ready to leave their manager.

      @Mike- Wish I had a video camera in your office to catch all that dancing going on.

      @Charlie- Definitely respect of people as human beings has to be there in order for you to respect them at any other level. Although, I don’t personally think that you have to treat someone “fair” in order to respect him/ her as a person. Fairness is more about equity and there are times that for one reason or another you may not be able to treat someone fairly. For example, if I have two employees that are great and that I respect a great deal but only one opportunity to be the lead working with our new client, I don’t have to be fair in choosing which one will lead the project. But I could still respect him/ her. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      @Robin- Thank you Robin!

      @Fran- I see a bit of a contradiction. You say that respect has to be earned, then that treating everyone kind and fair comes into play. I think between me, you, and Charlie, we’re all getting at the same way. It’s maybe just a different path to get there. I’m more in the camp of I “respect” everyone I meet initially regardless of who the person is or what job they hold. Then, if they show me behavior that is unsettling or disrespectful, they lose my respect. I think what you’re saying is that for you, everyone starts out being treated with kindness, but the respect piece is something you hold back. Then, over time and seeing their behavior toward you, they earn the respect. Is that accurate? Thanks for making this a discussion.

      @Mervyn- That’s right- realign attitudes! I don’t think coveting fame and celebrity is respect, but definitely what some people focus on. So glad you commented. Thank you.

      @Paul- I wonder why that is. The business skills and needs are always easier to have employees understand and teach. The softer skills like showing respect, much harder to get the point across. Thanks for commenting.

    • @BRogers- I think some people do it because they need the paycheck. Once they can find something else, they are gone. Don’t you think?

  • In the “old days” new employees respected the title if not the manager. The axiom “The boss may not always be right, but the boss is still the boss.”

    Today, new employees view respect as a two way function. The manager has to respect what Generation X, Y etc. bring to the table. But they do not automatically return it simply because of a title.

  • @John- I’m definitely someone who was raised to give respect, especially to someone in an authority role, like a manager. However, even though my inclination is to give respect and then take it away if they prove unworthy, it’s a challenge.

    I’d like to see people get away from title-based respect. Personally, I’d show a gen Y employee the same amount of respect as a boomer. thanks for adding to the discussion.

  • I should have gone a little further in my thoughts. I absolutely agree that the old way is just that the old way. Title – based respect does no,t for the most part, work which can be VERY scary for those managers who literally hiding behind a title.

    By having a two-way respect system it keeps the manager on his/her toes. A manager stuck in the old way of doing things will loose out on some wonderful ideas, energy, creativity and passion. A manager who understands how to respect others, motivate them, give them room to grow will be rewarded with mutual respect.

    Hope that enhances my thoughts on the fist entry.


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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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