in: Career, Career & Wealth, Featured

• Last updated: May 30, 2021

How to Get the Respect You Deserve at Work

American airlines officer explaining maps to pilots.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joe Weber.

Most men aim to like their jobs, and all men want to be respected. But doing a great job and being respected at work aren’t always mutually inclusive.  There’s a guy in every workplace that busts his butt every day but still gets walked all over by his co-workers or worse yet… management.

Earning respect from your superiors and colleagues is just as much about diplomacy and navigating the politics of the workplace as it is about effort.  If a guy is a tremendous worker but doesn’t fully grasp the politics at his job… he’s a dead man.  All the work and no recognition.  And when I say recognition I’m not talking about plaques or gift certificates or a parking space….those are just trinkets.  I’m talking about the kind of internal recognition that translates directly into happiness.  Respect.

Respect is given only to those who are valued.  The highest managers look to you for advice and counsel, no matter what your salary happens to be.  Your co-workers who are full of B.S. are scared of you, because they know if they try anything stupid you have the ability to out maneuver them in an argument or with their superiors. And the best benefit of being respected at work? Your life away from the job is rarely if ever negatively impacted by your career.  Because when you head home for the day, your head is clear of all the crap that being treated unfairly burdens you with.

Many of us have seen both sides.  Here’s how to make the brighter one a reality:

Don’t care so much.  Seriously.

Men often get obsessed with their careers. Jobs are like relationships.  If you hold on too tight to your career you’ll smother it. Just like when you’re in a relationship, you need to have your own identity. Your employer needs to value your presence and understand that you are working for them because you choose to. No matter how good you are at your job, if you’re always bending over backwards and constantly working late or on the weekends your employer will abuse that.

Yes it’s a brutal economy, but you can’t walk around terrified of living in a world where you’re not at this particular job. You’ll be taken for granted, and worst of all, the quality of your work will suffer.  It’s the same reason why football place kickers sometimes inexplicably shank and miss short game winning field goals.  They’re so wrapped up in what could happen if they miss, what normally comes naturally fails.

Care… less.  Don’t go all Peter Gibbons in Office Space and stop caring at all.  You don’t want to be reckless and disrespectful, but just loosen your grip. Shedding the natural terror that comes with the thought of losing your job is enormously powerful. Do this by having a backup plan. You don’t want to be asking yourself: “What am I going to do now?” if you get laid off. Always be working, even if it’s ever so slightly, towards something different.  A dream even. Having a backup plan lets you carry yourself a bit taller at work, because you realize that if the worst were to actually happen, it’s not the end of the world.

Never miss a deadline.  Ever.

It’s called a deadline for a reason.  Now, nobody actually dies when a deadline is missed, but the fact is people don’t respect a zero hour, we-need-it-by-this-time or we’re screwed deadline anymore.  It’s all about being accountable.  Do what you say you’re going to do.  If someone puts a deadline on you that’s unreasonable?  You have to respectfully and firmly tell them why the work will suffer and the job might not get completed on the shortened timeline.  Offer an alternative.

Never be late to an appointment.  Ever.

Being late shows that you believe your time to be more valuable than the time of the person whom you are meeting with.  Maybe your time is actually more valuable than theirs, but… never openly disrespect someone like that. Imagine if you were in their position.

Don’t gossip.  Especially over email.

Because one day you will hit “reply” instead of “forward” and that person you can’t stand will then find out just what you think of them.  Guaranteed they won’t take it as an honest reflection on how they can improve at work.

Don’t waste anyone’s time, but sometimes allow your superiors to waste yours.

Boy, do the guys in the corner offices love to talk about nothing.  They load you up with work, and then they want to shoot the breeze.  Be tactful if your boss wants to take you to lunch or starts rambling about his grandkids on your busiest of days. If you can squeeze in some face time, consider it an investment. But never, ever return this “favor.” Don’t drop in just to say “hi.”  Keep them at arms length. You’re not sucking up and becoming best buds with the boss. You’re just playing your cards right.

Treat those “underneath” you well.

There’s hardly anything worse than some old dog treating the fresh faced new employee like garbage. While working in an event related business, I saw guys making over 100k a year show up late to a gig, complain to the $7.00/hr 19-year-old that some small detail wasn’t completely perfect, then leave 15 minutes before the event ended. They never offered to help with the tear down, and sometimes left an empty soda bottle for the newbie to pick up and throw in the trash. If you know for a fact that you’re making a boatload more than someone you’re working with, pick up the tab for lunch. Thank the receptionist for dealing with every single person, good or bad, who comes through that door. And if you run into the custodian? Look them in the eye and say hello. It’s those types who actually make a business run.

You never know when one of your subordinates might be promoted above you or end up in a position where you need their help. If you treated them well, they’ll be happy to return the favor instead of relishing the opportunity for revenge.

Dress like you’re going to ask for a raise.  Every day.

The cliche is to dress for the job you want, but that’s not fail-safe advice. Yes, you want to stand out, but you want to do so subtly.  Maybe you eventually want to run the company you work for, but if you just got hired on and your management doesn’t even wear a tie to work, it’s best to leave your three piece suit in the closet.  You don’t want to show anybody up.  That just breeds resentment.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t wear a well tailored blazer over a v-neck sweater, crisp dress shirt, with a great looking pair of chinos.  If everyone else is slugging along in pleated khakis and ill-fitting sport shirts, assemble a work day wardrobe that stays within the business casual vibe, but exceeds expectations all the same.  Clothes can be powerful.  It’s pretty tough for a mid-level manager to get snotty with someone in a blazer while he’s wearing an unironed and frayed oxford.  You know how you dress just a touch nicer on the days you have your performance review or maybe even have a meeting with the boss about a potential raise?  Dress like that every day, and when those meetings do come up… you’ll be surprised how much easier they’ll go.

Know when to shut up, especially when you’re in a group.

Discretion can really be the better part of valor.  I hate to say this, because it shouldn’t be this way, but there is such a thing as too much honesty.  Especially in a group situation. Don’t lie, but know when, how, and to whom you deliver the unvarnished truth.  There are parts of any business that depend highly on confidence (sales), and if you openly question a major initiative, no matter how right you may be, you’ll do irreparable damage to the project.  Some workers are just looking for an excuse not to do something, and if you’re pointing out flaws in front of the entire team without being asked? You’re giving them an excuse.

Is it fair?  No.  Absolutely not.  But before you open your mouth, ask yourself if there’s going to be any side effects to your honesty. If your opinion is asked for by a superior, even if you’re in a group setting and you know they’re not going to like your answer, give it anyway. They asked. Their fault. And politely tell them afterwards when you’re one on one that you really wish they wouldn’t have put you in that position.

Keep your workspace clean.

It doesn’t have to be spotless.  A slight mess is a sign of work being done.  But for Pete’s sake throw out the Twix wrapper you had after lunch…last week.  I once worked with a guy who was killing himself for the company.  Always middle management and got passed over time and time again for that next step up he so desperately wanted and deserved.  I finally asked the big-boss man one day why he wasn’t getting his shot.  His response?  “Have you seen his desk?  It’s like a teenager’s room back there.”  Ouch.

Don’t ever get drunk at a work gathering.  Ever.

But if someone does get hammered at the company Christmas party?  Don’t make a big deal out of it.  Laugh it up a little with the lush while calling him or her a cab.

And finally: Sing when it’s someone’s birthday.  With gusto.

But don’t eat more than a few bites of sheet cake.

The average American spends 45 hours at work every week. Depending on your sleeping habits, that could be more than half of your waking hours Monday – Friday. That’s a big chunk of your life. Get the respect you deserve at work, and you won’t be spending Saturdays and Sundays dreading the arrival of Monday morning.


Joe Weber is the Director and Editor of where affordable style is the one and only focus. He believes that living right, living well, and looking good doesn’t mean you should go broke in the process.

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