The old saying goes you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, and in managing a small business it’s no surprise that respect results in greater productivity, loyalty and employee satisfaction than fear does.
In a time where employees regularly move from one job to another, and where word of mouth is perhaps the most powerful form of marketing, a disgruntled employee or one who submits due to fear is not only a sure way of upsetting workplace dynamics, but also a risk for your business’s reputation. Conversely, an employee who remains in their position out of a genuine sense of loyalty is not only an asset to your business’s internal operations, but also a great spokesperson for the type of manager you are.
Earning the respect of your employees can take time. However, there are several steps you can take from day one that can aid in the process.
Be clear about roles, requirements and expectations
Many employees are happy to work for a boss who has high standards, so long as these standards are made clear from the start. If you find yourself having to repeat yourself over and over, consider whether your delivery was clear enough to begin with.
One of the quickest ways to lose the respect of your employees is to enforce rules that you yourself cannot play by. Being the owner of a business comes with its own perks of course, but brandishing the power you hold will only lead to resentment.
While it’s natural to gel with some personalities more than others, and with the additional complications that working with family or friends can bring, it’s vital to maintain a conscious effort to avoid favouritism – one set of rules should apply to everyone.
Be part of the team
A great way of encouraging the respect of your staff is to take not only an active interest in their jobs, but also an active role. Whenever possible, jump in and get involved in whatever is required. The attitude that certain roles within your own business are beneath you has no place in small business, especially considering you were probably the one doing them in the early days.
Balance professionalism and friendliness
We sometimes think that by befriending our staff they will respect us. However the reverse is often the case, especially when problems arise. Take an interest in their well-being, enquire about their families, etc. but always keep the professional boundaries clear.
Keep staff informed
While it isn’t necessary to inform your team about every detail regarding decisions you make, aim to keep them in the loop about major decisions, especially those that affect them directly.
Be as honest as possible
The truth is that we can’t always be completely honest. However, when we aim to be as honest as possible, we ensure that our employees feel they can count on what we tell them. This goes for negative feedback as well as positive. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that by pleasing everyone you will earn their respect. Constructive, honest feedback and genuine communication will give your team a sense of security as they will see you are capable of handling the difficult issues.
As anybody who has ever worked for someone else knows, acting content and actually feeling that way are two different things. An employee may greet you and treat you as though everything is fine, however the reality is that with each disingenuous act, with every abuse of your power, your staff members not only remember them, but quite often discuss them amongst themselves. Strive to earn respect, but never become complacent or take it for granted.
Respect is like a loyal client – valuable to your business and hard to get back once lost. Give the respect you want to earn.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.