How to Earn Respect at Work

Three Methods:Demonstrating CompetenceBeing Liked by Your ColleaguesMaintaining a Professional Image

Being respected at work will not only allow you to succeed professionally but will also make you a happier person.[1] In order to earn respect, you will have to be productive at work, demonstrate confidence, and behave appropriately with your colleagues. The personal and professional rewards from behaving in a way that commands respect are huge.

Method 1
Demonstrating Competence

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    Earn respect by being good at your job. Respect is usually due either to being liked or to being deemed competent. Sometimes respect is a combination of the two.[2] However, when it comes to the workplace, it may be easier to control how competent you seem than how well liked you are. Demonstrate your knowledge and abilities at work in order to encourage respect among your peers.[3]
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    Be a team player. Respect is often afforded to those who work to further the interests of the group--in this case, your company.[4] Demonstrate that you are responsible and productive and that you care about how your business if performing. Volunteer to help with projects when you can, and never shirk your work.
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    Do your work in a timely way. Agree to accomplish your assigned tasks, and complete them on schedule.[5] Some keys to scheduling your time wisely include:
    • Sticking to a routine.[6]
    • Avoiding perfectionism during routine tasks--if it takes you 30 minutes to write a brief, low-stakes email, you should reevaluate your priorities.[7]
    • Resist the urge to multitask. Instead, keep your attention focused on one thing at a time; you will get more done in the long run.[8]
    • Exercise in the mornings. Spending 20-30 minutes exercising in the morning can help keep you focused and energized for a full day of work.[9]
    • Write important things down. It can be difficult to remember everything we are told, and it can take valuable time and mental energy to recall important information. Write down important tasks, information, and details in order to save yourself time and energy.[10]
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    Prioritize your tasks when you get too busy. While you should accomplish your assigned tasks, it is possible that you will be given too many items to accomplish them all productively. Rather than refusing to accomplish your tasks, be proactive with your boss and colleagues about how to prioritize your work.[11]
    • For example, when your supervisor assigns you a new task when you are already overscheduled, you should say, "I would love to help you with that. I am currently scheduled to accomplish tasks A, B, C, and D. Do you have any recommendations about what I might place on the back-burner?" Let your supervisor help you find a way to get it all done.
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    Admit mistakes. Even very competent employees make mistakes sometimes. Do not blame others for your errors: admit them honestly. Your colleagues will respect you for taking ownership of your mistakes.[12]
    • It can also be useful to frame your mistakes as learning experiences. As you admit your mistake, come up with possible solutions to prevent that mistake from happening again.
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    Avoid office gossip. Offices can sometimes be rumor mills. Resist the urge to engage in office gossip or talking behind your colleagues' backs. You might be overheard and lose the trust of your supervisor.[13]
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    Do not lie about your abilities. Do not exaggerate your training or your skill sets. Admit it openly when you have new skills to learn and develop. Even very competent employees will sometimes need extra training. It is better to be open about it than to make a serious error because of your inexperience.[14]
    • Consider asking a mentor or colleague for help developing a new skill. They will appreciate being considered as an expert and might help you learn new, valuable abilities.
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    Be prepared for meetings. Make sure that you take the time to be impeccably prepared for any important meetings or presentations. Know the proper terminology, do your research, and practice public speaking. If you are presenting slides during a meeting, practice going through the slides to make sure that the technology is working correctly and that there are not any typos.[15]
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    Behave with confidence. Do not undermine yourself. If you respect yourself, others will be more likely to respect you.[16] Ways that you can model confidence and self-respect include:
    • Speaking clearly, without mumbling.
    • Having good, upright posture.
    • Sharing your opinions and expertise during meetings.
    • Standing up for yourself (though in a polite, professional way).
    • Resisting "uptalk" (where declarative sentences are pronounced like they are questions).
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    Track your accomplishments. Don't hide your achievements under a bushel. Keep track of your accomplishments and the goals you've met. Mention them during your performance reviews. Be proud of the things you accomplish.[17]

Method 2
Being Liked by Your Colleagues

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    Behave pleasantly to earn respect. Respect is usually due either to being liked or to being deemed competent. Sometimes respect is a combination of the two.[18] It can sometimes be difficult to be likable in professional situations. However, you do have some control about how others view you.
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    Become a role model for civility. Especially if you have a position of power at work, your own behavior will be modeled by those underneath you. You have the power to create a more congenial workplace by being congenial to others.[19] Never yell, curse, or insult your colleagues and employees: always remain polite and professional.
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    Respect others. Studies show that demonstrating respect for others will make it more likely for them to respect you.[20] Do not brown-nose, but do behave toward your coworkers with empathy and courtesy. Some ways for you to demonstrate your respect include:
    • Listening actively to their ideas.
    • Complimenting them when they do a good job.
    • Asking them for their input.
    • Behaving politely.
    • Showing interest in their lives.
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    Discourage disrespectful behavior at work. If you are a supervisor, you can create policies that will discourage your employees from behaving in an uncivil way toward each other and toward you. You should also make sure that you only hire employees who have a track record of behaving respectfully at work.[21] Company civility policies can help make respect thrive in the workplace.
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    Be patient with yourself. While shy, introverted people are often not initially respected by their peers, over time respect will grow. Indeed, introverts are often respected more than extroverts given enough time.[22] If you are introverted or nervous, be patient and focus on your work. Let your colleagues' respect for you build over time.
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    Do not force others to respect you. Employees respond more positively to supervisors who are humble and behave respectfully themselves.[23] Those who insist on being deferred to might receive more external signs of respect but will not actually be respected by their employees.[24] Always be humble, and never push colleagues and employees to behave in a deferential manner.
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    Demonstrate your morality. Morality is one of the key attributes of respect.[25] If you consistently demonstrate that you are an honest, empathetic, upstanding person, you are more likely to be respected at work. Do not try to take advantage of your colleagues or the company: that will hurt your reputation in the long term.
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    Stand up for yourself. Don't be a doormat. Respect means that everyone must listen to one another and hear each other out. However, it does not mean that everyone has to agree on a course of action. You should state your knowledgeable opinion and allow others to express theirs. Don't worry about agreeing with everybody, and don't worry about having everyone agree with you.[26]
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    Be aware of internal biases. People are more likely to respect members of their own in-group as opposed to members of an out-group. This kind of exclusion can take place because of differences in gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, language group, or socioeconomic status.[27] If you are not feeling respected at work despite your competence and kindness, it is possible that your colleagues' internal biases are to blame.
    • If workplace disrespect due to bias is taking place, you might consider contacting your Human Resources representative or ombudsman. It is important that you be treated fairly and with respect.

Method 3
Maintaining a Professional Image

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    Cultivate a professional appearance. People respond well to colleagues who appear healthy and professional.[28] In order to command respect, be sure that you are putting forward an image that is professional and put-together. This includes:
    • Wearing clean, wrinkle-free professional attire.
    • Having hair that is free of split-ends and tangles.
    • Having a professional haircut.
    • Paying attention to personal hygiene.
    • Wearing appropriate accessories.
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    Maintain your privacy. Respect often hinges on your social reputation.[29] Be sure that you maintain appropriate boundaries between your work life and your home life to ensure that your reputation is protected. Resist the urge to overshare everything about your personal life or what takes place outside of work.
    • For example, you might not want to discuss how much you drank over the weekend at work.
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    Be professional in group work activities. Work outings can be excellent ways to bond with coworkers. However, sometimes they can involve alcohol or other substances. Eat and drink in moderation during work outings and try to maintain your professionalism. You can loosen up a little bit, but you never want to cross important boundaries.[30] Do not drink to excess; do not touch your coworkers inappropriately; do not engage in gossip or bullying; etc.
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    Keep your workspace neat and organized. Have a desk and an office that are clean, organized, and professional. Most workplaces permit some personal details at your desk or cubicle, but be sure that these do not clutter your workspace. You also want to make sure that your personal items are appropriate for the workplace: do not keep anything at work that might be interpreted as lewd, crude, insulting, or unprofessional.[31]


  • If none of the aforementioned steps work, it might not be your fault. If you're nice, punctual, reliable, well-dressed, and competent, and the majority of people in your office still act like you don't exist, this might be a case of workplace bullying or harassment. Consider having a friendly, non-combative talk with your supervisor to gain insight into their perception of the situation.
  • Stand up for yourself. People trying to take advantage of you will respect you more if you say "no" once in a while. Be friendly, but firm.
  • Be yourself. Trying to excel at work does not mean you have to brown-nose.


  • Workplace harassment and bullying do take place. If you are behaving professionally but your colleagues are not, you might want to involve a supervisor or Human Resources. You deserve to be respected.
  • Racism, sexism, homophobia, or other biases might also prevent colleagues from respecting you fully. If you think that you are being discriminated against, talk to your supervisor or Human Resources. You may also wish to consult an employment attorney to explore your options.

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Categories: Job Strategies