The Respect Virus: 7 Ways to Spread It at Work

The Respect VirusWhat if respect were a virus?  Would you help spread it?

Respect costs little, but the benefits to productivity, a positive work culture and bottom line profits are priceless!

(second in the series based on the blog post  7 Principles for Making Relationships Work at Work).

Try these simple tips!

Show honor and respect (2)

1. Be considerate (the Platinum Plus Rule)
Being considerate is more than just mere politeness.  It means taking the focus off yourself and considering others’ perspectives and treating them as they would wish to be treated (the Platinum Rule, which I slightly modified to be the Platinum Plus Rule: treat other people the way their best self would want your best self to treat them).

The challenge here is to get outside of your own head. Try to zoom out of your own perspective and look at situations from the perspective of the other person, or even that of an impartial observer to get the big picture.  Play an imaginary game of perspective chairs.

3 chairs
2. Get to know people

Of course, to truly be considerate, to treat other people as they would want to be treated, you have to know people both generally and specifically.  Learning about people and how to get along with them generally is a critical part of a professional development plan. Books, classes, websites and assessments abound to help you better understand people.

Try taking a simple assessment to understand your own personality.  Or, your entire group could take an assessment and you could map out the personalities.  Just for fun, I took one of the many free DISC personality tests online (the DISC personality test measures 4 factors of personality:  Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance).  Here are my results from 


Your scores, especially the highest and lowest scores, can give you some insight as to where you might have some perspective issues. As I scored very low on compliance, I might, for example, butt heads with someone on sticking to rules.  What I might see as an efficient way to get something done (by circumventing rules), might seem risky to someone with a higher compliance score.

Getting to know people generally, however, does not take the place of getting to know them more specifically.  That kind of knowledge can best be obtained by spending time with them.  It can be as simple as stopping by someone’s desk (MBWA–Management By Walking Around) instead of emailing them or texting them.  Or,  get out of the office and have a “Walking Meeting.”    A little change of scenery and some exercise are bonuses!

3. Listen to and encourage ideas

It’s hard to know people if you never listen to them.  Listening, not just waiting for your turn to talk, is probably the number one way to show respect, and to find out what makes them tick.  The magic combo is to listen and to encourage ideas, chiefly by asking questions and providing positive verbal encouragement (“tell me more about that . . . ” and body language (leaning forward, nodding, pleasant expression).  Not only will you get some good ideas, but the other person will feel valued and respected.  Some behaviors to avoid when listening:

  • Don’t use negative non-verbals such as: eye-rolling, head-shaking, sighing
  • Don’t use stop-sign statements.  These are statements that are like a big red stop sign (Examples: “You’re wrong.” or “That’s stupid) .  If the other person keeps talking after you have thrown up a stop-sign statement, they risk getting run over.   If you feel the urge to say something like “you’re wrong,”  ask a question instead (in a friendly “we’re-all-in-this-together” tone).   “I don’t quite understand how that will work . . . can you show me how . . .?”

4. Make empathetic requests

Nobody likes to be told to do things, even if you say “please” at the start.  The secret to having people feel respected when you make a request (and also one of the secrets to getting them to comply) is to couch the request in terms of their point of view, empathizing with their situation and then explaining the importance of your request.

So instead of saying:  “Christine, can you please organize the prospective membership database?”

Try saying: “Christine, I can only imagine how busy you are having to deal with all the requests from the newly elected officers, but our recruitment kick-off is coming up soon and we need to get all the prospective members information organized.  We need you to get that information together in the next month.  Is that reasonable?”

5. Focus on facts, not assumptions

“The road to hell is paved with bad assumptions.” –Diane Windingland

A misunderstood person does not feel respected.  Most misunderstandings stem from people making bad assumptions.

Here’s an example that happened to my husband, Kim, at work when he was a young engineer in his 20s:

Manager:  How long have you lived in this country?

Kim:  I grew up here.

Manager:  Well, why don’t you learn English?

Ouch.  The manager assumed that my husband had poor grammar because he didn’t “learn English.”  The problem was that my husband was hearing impaired, due to an unfortunate encounter with a firecracker when he was six.  He didn’t speak correctly because he didn’t hear correctly.   It would have been more respectful for the manager to focus on the facts, such as saying (in a private conversation):  “Communicating effectively is an important part of working with people.  I notice when you speak that you sometimes leave the ends off words.  Were you aware of this?”

6.  Create an inclusive culture

Treat people fairly regardless of race, color, political views, gender, age, etc.  Make diversity training a part of your work environment.  Focus also on similarities–however people are different, they are more the same than different. People who can see similarities despite differences are more likely to like and respect each other.  Team-building activities can encourage bonding and create shared experiences, which increase feelings of similarity.

Beyond diversity issues, freely share information and resources, where confidentiality is not an issue.

7. Offer sincere praise generously

Having a positive to negative ratio of at least 3 positives to every 1 negative will increase people’s productivity, according to researcher Barbara Fredrickson.

Effective praise is:

  • sincere (not manipulative),
  • timely  (a once-a-year performance review is not enough)
  • specific (as to what was observed and the positive impact)

Try keeping a praise log to record positive performance.

Praise log screen capture

Encourage others to catch someone doing something well!  Where my husband works, they have an informal program that allows anyone to recognize anyone else with a small reward (a gift card).

I’d love to hear specific ways you, your business or where you work shows respect!

This content is also featured in, The Respect Virus:  How to Create a Contagious Culture of Respect

The Respect Virus

Poor Preparation + Poor Execution = Meetings that SUCK

Meetings Suck!
As I chatted with a fellow Toastmaster at a recent Toastmaster convention, the talk turned to business communication.  He lamented that his younger co-workers were terrible at running meetings.  We continued that conversation via email.  Is your experience similar to his?
“Many of my co-workers are skilled technologists – programmers, analysts, etc. – but many struggle at softer skills. Effective communication is an example. Many new co-workers are scheduling meetings to collaborate on projects for the first time, and have very little in the way of formal training. This leads to some awkward, and unproductive meetings. Some of the mistakes: 
1 ) poor preparation
  • Not setting an agenda before hand.
  • Not setting a meeting goal(s)
  • Not preparing materials
2) poor execution
  • Not setting context 
  • Not communicating meeting goal(s) to participants
  • Not managing time well or deviating from the agenda
  • Not concluding properly (summarizing findings, setting action items, rough goals and agenda for the next meeting).
Some of the deficiencies are knowledge; most of the technical staff did not take more that the basic communications courses. Some of the deficiencies come from a lack of practice.”
Would you add to this list?  Is this problem worse with young professionals?

Professionalism in the Workplace (and IT misuse)

Professionalism in the workplace

A few weeks ago, a headline in the Sunday paper caught my eye:  College ‘charm schools’ fill gap.  The article talked about how colleges are teaching students business etiquette, including things like how to master small talk.

“A good résumé and a degree only gets you to the table. Professional behaviors are what get you a job.” –Matthew Randall, Executive Director of the Center for Professional Excellence at York College in Pennsylvania.

Intrigued with the concept of a “center for professional excellence,” I tracked down Matthew Randall, and sent him a copy of my book Small Talk Big Results.  He sent me the above infographic (Click here for a pdf of the infographic) as well as the full length 2012 study).

What I found most surprising was the section on IT misuse on the job.  Approximately 4 out of 5 respondents saw misuse in these  areas:

  • excessive use of social media
  • text messaging at inappropriate times
  • inappropriate internet use.

Clearly there is a mismatch between actual and expected behavior.

What challenges with IT misuse or other professionalism issues have you seen at work?