If your team doesn’t respect you, you’ll have a hard time getting things done. They’re likely to doubt your decisions, push back when you need them pulling in the same direction, and even eventually leave. And when you’re in a leadership position, trust can be easy to lose – it only takes one or two instances of troubling behavior to end up with a team that's lost faith in you.
Here are some of the ways managers risk losing their teams’ respect – and things to be sure NOT to do:
1. Hold your staff members to a different standard than you hold yourself to. As a manager, you should have high standards; you should expect excellence from your team and hold people accountable for meeting ambitious goals. But if you don’t hold yourself to those same standards, believe me, your team is going to notice it. If you don’t cut your staff any slack on deadlines (when the situation allows for it) but routinely don’t meet your own deadlines, or if you regularly show up late and unprepared for meetings while holding a hard line on that behavior in others, or come down hard on them for the same types of errors that your own work sometimes has, it’s going to be hard for your team to take you seriously.
2. Be a source of drama, rather than the calm in the storm. If you overreact to tough news, lurch from one crisis to the next, gossip about colleagues, and/or regularly have interpersonal conflicts, your team is going to have trouble seeing you as a figure they respect. Moreover, that kind of drama tends to trickle down to the rest a team as well; it’s hard to maintain a calm equilibrium when working for a manager who’s constantly riled up. Good managers model a no-drama approach for their staff, and that ethos will usually end up permeating the rest of their team, which benefits everyone.
3. Get defensive when questioned. There’s almost no faster way to look insecure in your knowledge and position than to become defensive when someone questions your decisions. You’ll gain more respect by welcoming input and dissent and considering push-back with an open mind, and by being willing to explain your decisions, than you will be acting as your word is unquestionable and final.
4. Don’t keep your word. If you’ve ever worked with someone who regularly didn’t follow through on her commitments, you probably know what happened next: People stopped taking that person’s word for much, and greet future commitments with skepticism. As a manager, you don’t want your team secretly thinking “I’ll believe it when I see it” or “yeah, right” when you agree to review a document by Thursday or call that difficult customer or go to bat to get them a raise.
5. Neglect to deal with tough issues. As much as your team might like you, they’ll start to lose respect for you if you develop a pattern of not taking on the hard parts of your job, like breaking bad news, giving difficult feedback, or letting a low performer go. It’s hard to lead a team when you’re not doing the things that your position requires you to do (and which, usually, you’re the only person on your team who can handle). But when your team sees you handle tough challenges with fairness and transparency, you’ll earn their respect, and often their loyalty too.