Editor’s note: This post was originally published Jan. 13, 2013, on Dallas Woman.
Whether you’re the boss or a junior staffer, follow these tips for showing respect in the workplace, and you’ll have a happier office:
1) Listen. Whether you’re having a conversation with the man from the mail room, a peer or the CEO, take the time to hear them out. This doesn’t mean wait impatiently until they stop talking so that you can resume talking. Listen actively. Some people just want someone to acknowledge that they’re having a terrible day. Others want validation that the work they’re doing is important (and that they’re doing a good job of it). Still others need answers to specific questions. Listen, and do your best to deliver what’s needed. And for the love of God, don’t interrupt. If listening is the best way to show respect, interruption is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Nothing says, “I don’t care about you or your opinions and in fact care only about myself and my opinions,” like preventing a person from completing his or her sentence. Trust me: Unless you’re interjecting to announce that the room is on fire, your thought can wait.
2) Respond to email. You’re busy. You’re on deadline. You have exactly 1 million tasks to complete by the end of the day. You can’t be expected to reply to every email that lands in your inbox, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. If someone takes the time to compose a message and send it to you, you are obligated to show him or her the courtesy of a response, even if it’s “Thanks,” “I’ll look into it,” or “I’ll get back to you about this next week.” Failing to reply tells your colleagues you don’t think enough of them to acknowledge what they have to say. Don’t be this person.
3) Give credit where credit is due. This should be a no-brainer, but if I had a dollar for every time a colleague had said to me, “He’s co-opted my idea!” “I spent three months getting this project together, and now she’s taken it and presented it as her own,” or “How dare he not credit me for this work?” I’d be a hundred-aire. As in most other cases, the Golden Rule applies here. Would you want someone else to get the glory for your brilliant work? Raises and promotions are hard to come by these days, and sometimes one good idea could make the difference. Never pass off another person’s work — either explicitly or implicitly — as your own.
4) Don’t discuss politics, religion or any other personal beliefs. The office is not a place for debating these or any other emotionally charged topics. Bring up any of these, and at the very least you risk alienating and/or distracting your colleagues — and at worst, creating a hostile work environment.
5) Don’t stare at a coworker’s computer screen unless he or she has invited you to do so. This is simply impolite, and to some it may feel like an invasion of privacy.
6) Don’t be afraid to let others succeed. If one of your colleagues lands a big client, gets a promotion, wins an award or even just draws the praise of those around him, don’t resent him or try to minimize his achievement. Cheer him on. Don’t forget, ever, that you’re a team.
7) Take time to thank someone for extra work. In this day and age, most people work an odd late evening or weekend, but if a coworker has done that for a month straight, take 10 seconds to say “thanks for handling that.” A simple and quick thank you goes a very long way.