I want respect and you want respect and we both respect each other, but why don’t we feel respected?
It all comes down to the definition of respect, which is different for different generations. Each generation has its own associations and ideas about respect.
The Baby Boomers see respect as being linked with authority. They respect their elders, their boss, and others based on the authority they have. Gen X’ers tie respect into trust. They respect people and companies that they can put their faith in and believe will be successful and has proven results. Finally the Gen Y’ers see it as something that is earned, not given. They are looking for companies and people that “do good” and care. They respect those which they can genuinely like.
With each of these different ideas of what respect is, it is easy for respect to be misunderstood in the workplace. Respect becomes like a language, but if you don’t speak the language of the people around you, the message gets lost. In the workplace, we have to learn to understand how others understand and view respect so that we can respect them in ways that make them feel respected.
It is also important to understand that because ideas of respect are different, what appears to be respectful behavior from someone, may not mean they respect you at all. For instance, an employee may do a project the way their boss tells them, but because they don’t associate authority and respect, the employee may not be communicating respect, but instead a lack of trust that their boss will hear their ideas or concerns with a project.
For companies to develop a positive work environment, it is essential that company leaders understand the ways their employees understand respect to correctly understand what is going on around the office.
Let me leave you with some final thoughts about respect:
- All people have inherent worth and are deserving of respect
- Respect is a choice, not an emotion