There is little in life that irritates me more than a lack of respect for others. I hate the modern cliché “Respect has to be earned”. No it doesn’t! Respect for one another should be the default, it can be vindicated or lost by subsequent actions, but it really should be the starting point.
Here are five ways to spot a lack of respect in managers:
I once worked in an organisation that employed someone for a specific role in a specific team. The employee took the job because it represented a good opportunity for them to develop their skills and career. On their first day, the company put them into a completely different team for the short-term benefit of the company. TWO YEARS LATER, the employee was having a leaving party with the team because he was finally being moved to the team he was recruited for when he was told that he couldn’t move after all; the company had another short-term issue that was best-solved by keeping the employee where he was.
It’s a mystery to me how the company held on to this good worker as long as they did.
We’ve all seen managers who won’t speak to anyone more than two pay grades below them, preferring instead to go across the management hierarchy and then down via the employee’s line manager. There is something quaintly old-fashioned about this archaic protocol, so perhaps it can be forgiven in managers over 65 or so.
Far worse was the case I saw of the manager who passed between the desks of his team and others on his walk from the lift to his office each morning. Wearing headphones, he walked with his head down, acknowledging none of the staff verbally or via eye contact until he reached his office and closed the door behind him to lock out the outside world.
This was at a company where the CEO knew the majority of people by name and never failed to pass the time of day with them, which just made this manager look even worse in comparison. Small wonder, then, that the culprit could not win hearts and minds, let alone retain staff.
We all have “Those days”, where nothing seems to go right and issues rain down on us like a bad hailstorm, meaning we sometimes arrive at meetings late, flustered and apologetic. I think we can all empathise with that.
What is far different is the manager who is habitually late for meetings. They usually wander in without a care in the world and then expect a recap of what they’ve missed.
The message this sends out is that they consider their time to be more valuable than that of the other meeting attendees, whom they have so thoughtlessly kept waiting.
Not only that, calculate the cost to the company for the time everyone else has sat waiting and you see that the manager disrespects the company as well.
These same people are usually guilty of the next indicator as well…
It seems that hardly a meeting goes by these days without someone texting or checking their emails on one device or another. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems to me that if you need to be at the meeting you should pay people the courtesy to pay attention and make an appropriate contribution.
If you don’t need to be there, do the company justice and decline the meeting. If you need to be there and you are overwhelmed with emails etc., book yourself on a time management course. The message you are giving out to everyone else in the meeting are “I’m far too busy/important to give you my full attention”. Try winning friends and influencing people with THAT technique!
Sometimes I see manager I think should walk round with a mirror strapped to their shoulders, facing them so that they can truly admire themselves all day. These are they type who believe that they alone have something valuable to say, and everyone else will see the wisdom of it and thus do their bidding.
Whatever they say usually bears little or no relation to the point you have just made, showing that they either weren’t listening or they don’t care about your views.
I’ve never seen a manager like this keep a high-performing team with good morale; more likely, they have the team that grumble about them round the water cooler and watches the clock most of the afternoon.
The book Good to Great by Jim Collins (Random House, 2001) presents empirical evidence to show that good companies that become great are led by self-effacing managers with humility, not superstars with huge egos. Perhaps it should be compulsory reading for some of today’s managers.
I'd like to know what you think; do you have other examples of disrespect by managers? What are your experiences of the examples I have given?
Steve Syder is a Director of Programmes & Projects. He can be contacted directly via this link.