4 Things You Do That Signal Disrespect to Others
How’s this for a comment when you ask for feedback on your leadership style?
“She may be smart, but she doesn’t respect others.”
If you had received that comment repeatedly upon soliciting commentary about your leadership effectiveness from your colleagues, manager, and direct reports, would you be stunned and want to know what you were doing that was giving people that impression?
If you’re like most of the leaders I work with, you definitely see yourself as someone trustworthy and as someone who respects others. So while it may seem puzzling, I can’t tell you how many times I see that lack of respect, or “R” word come up in leadership feedback assessments.
And in every case, the person is shocked that others think that.
What is clear in the reactions to seeing that feedback is the discrepancy between someone’s intention and the actual impact their behavioral choices are having on others.
When you peel back the onion, often we are not aware of the impact our behaviors have on others because we are not choosing our actions consciously. Instead, we are reacting to our environment and needs in the moment without stopping to think about the consequence of the behavioral choice we are making in the moment.
An Oxford Dictionary definition of the word respect is “due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others”. Most of us would say that of course we value and respect others. The real question is, are your actions congruent with that statement?
Do you show clear regard for others not in what you say, but in what you do?
Here are four things you may be doing unintentionally that signal lack of respect to your colleagues without you even realizing it:
1. Cancelling or calling meetings at the last minute
Your time is important, there is no doubt about it. You are crazy busy and furiously trying to juggle all the priorities you have, put out fires, and get things done. So part of prioritizing in the moment is making last minute adjustments to your schedule to address what comes up. That is perfectly understandable. But when your mode of operating is to continuously cancel meetings with people or schedule them at the last minute, you are showing lack of regard for their time. Others, regardless of their level in the organization, are also prioritizing and juggling. When you consistently show disregard for their time, you are communicating a lack of respect for them.
2. Sitting on decisions and approvals
We’re back to the personal prioritizing thing again. When people are working on something for you and need either your decision or approval, they also need sufficient time to then go and implement the actions that result. Sitting on something others are waiting for until the very last minute may work for you, but shows disregard for the overall picture of the execution timeline. Again—it signals disrespect for everyone else’s time. Factoring in the overall timeline rather than just your own approval time and acting accordingly shows you realize what it takes to get something done and are supporting the group.
3. Multi-tasking when others are talking to you
Is multi-tasking a badge of honor you wear? Can you look at your computer or check your smartphone while others are talking to you in a meeting? Is that your way of getting things done? If it is, it is also a sure-fire way to signal disrespect to the person or people in front of you. Your lack of being fully present says, “You are not as important as what I am doing on the side here” in code language to those competing for your full attention. Being fully present when others are talking to you not only shows respect, it also allows you to listen and learn.
4. Failing to acknowledge past ways of doing things
When you come into a new organization as the leader, you are often asked to take a look around and make needed changes. Your success in the role is dependent on doing just that. In the process, finding flaws in the old ways allows you to more readily showcase the new. What happens in doing so is that those who were involved in executing the now “old” way feel they are doing something wrong and that their work is disregarded, resulting in feeling disrespected. Acknowledging the past rather than belittling it goes a long way to remedy that.
Respecting others may be your intention. But it is your words and actions that demonstrate those intentions to others.
Do you show respect for others in your choice of actions?
Is there a gap between what you intend and what you say and do?
Slowing down and thinking about the consequence of a behavioral choice on others rather than just merely reacting to a circumstance will help close the gap.