Harvey Mackay: Be respectful, not neglectful

One of my favorite old comedians, the late Rodney Dangerfield, was famous for his line, "I get no respect."

Then he usually would add something like, "I remember when I was a kid and played hide-and-seek. The other kids wouldn't even look for me."

If you want those who work with you to respect you more, try this simple tactic. Ask their opinions, and really listen to what they have to say. When done well, this is a powerful workplace practice that produces tremendously positive outcomes. Then, take action from what you learn. Employees will feel validated, and you will become someone people will flock to.

Example: Jack, a manager, is talking to Judy, who works for him. He asks her what she thinks of a new company policy. Judy answers with a thoughtful opinion. But as she is telling Jack what she thinks, Jack sees his boss walk by. Jack wants to ask his boss something important, and his mind focuses on that instead of on what Judy is saying.

Judy sees that Jack no longer is making eye contact or listening to her -- even though he solicited her opinion. She stops mid-sentence. Jack is so lost in thinking about his question to his boss he doesn't even notice Judy has stopped talking for a few seconds.


Embarrassed he has been caught being inattentive, Jack tries to cover up the fact he wasn't listening. Judy politely skims over the incident and says she needs to get back to work. Later, Jack overhears Judy telling a co-worker about the incident. "What a jerk," she says. "He asked me for my opinion like he cared. And I was dumb enough to think he did."

Jack flinched at her words. He knew he appeared not to care, even though he wanted to hear her ideas. He realized he had damaged his relationship with an employee. He knew he had to make an effort to be a better listener in the future and vowed to repair the damage over time. He also knew he had learned one of the most valuable lessons a manager can learn: Listening to what his employees have to say is a priority and should be treated as one.

Of course, when I think about respect, Aretha Franklin immediately comes to mind. Her blockbuster hit "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" is timeless. As the lyrics advise, find out what respect means to employees.

Half of all American employees think they're not treated with respect by their employers or managers, according to the website When this happens, employees tend to lose respect for their bosses and don't trust them. They also become resentful, less motivated and no longer committed to their employers.

To minimize this problem, treating people with respect has to begin at the top of an organization. If senior managers treat each other and their subordinates with respect, this sets the stage for respect among all employees.

Employee suggestions should be acted upon, rather than just ignored or ridiculed. Simply asking for input will gain some employee respect, but acting upon good suggestions is an imperative. Employees also must be given credit for the idea.

Allowing for scheduling flexibility gives employees the idea their employers respect them enough to let them get their work done according to their own schedule. Letting them come in late or leave early on occasion is a strong way of showing respect and trust.

Making employees aware of the financial condition of the company and the reasons for various decisions also lets them know the company trusts them. If cost-cutting is necessary, solicit ideas from them. Inviting their input demonstrates respect for their opinions. An added bonus is the people in the trenches have a unique and valuable perspective.


Investing in employee training and career development is an investment in the employees themselves. They will respect the company that provides it.

As you work to reach your goals, remember others also have goals and also are working hard. Respect people for what they are and for what they stand for -- even if you don't agree.

Mackay's Moral: Be respectful or be regretful.

What To Read Next
Get Local