The 5 Keys to Earning Respect at Work

Happy people at work, surrounding a table.

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Everyone desires respect, but it’s not something that people give. Respect is earned, both in your personal life and your career. This guide focuses on your work setting. Earning respect at work is simpler than most people think. Mastering these five keys will lead to all of the esteem and admiration from your peers that you could ever want:

  • Work ethic
  • Self-care
  • Fashion
  • Body language
  • Word choice

Each of these five components plays an integral role in the workplace. Let’s go through each one so you can unlock the secrets to earning respect at work.

1. Demonstrate Your Work Ethic

Showing a strong work ethic is the most important of the five keys. After all, you won’t keep your job very long if you’re not an efficient employee. But we’re talking about respect here, not job performance. You owe it to yourself and your co-workers to put in a good effort every day. Do your job to the best of your ability. That’s all anyone can ask for.

To be clear, being a hard worker doesn’t just mean volunteering for overtime hours or staying late to help on projects. Going above and beyond would certainly improve your reputation, but you don’t have to sacrifice your well-being to earn respect. Instead, take small steps to make the lives of your colleagues easier. Here are a few simple examples:

  • Keep your workstation clean and organized, especially if you share a desk cluster with other people.
  • Tell your peers about future days off well in advance. Don’t leave them hanging.
  • Keep your communication lines open. Answer your calls and respond to emails in a timely manner.
  • Give people recognition for small achievements. They will reciprocate.
  • Don’t take criticism or any other remarks personally.
  • Own up to your mistakes. You’re not perfect, so don’t bother acting like it.
  • Speak your mind — respectfully, of course — to show your confidence and independence.
  • Most importantly, never complain in front of co-workers. Nobody respects a whiner.

You don’t have to be a genius or a pack mule to earn respect at work. You just need to be a normal employee with good working habits. Be physically and mentally present every day, and show your co-workers why you’re the best fit for the position.

2. Practice Good Self-Care Habits

The second key is one of the cardinal rules of life: in order to earn respect, you must first respect yourself. Self-respect means practicing healthy and responsible habits, especially regarding your physical appearance. Your hair, skin, teeth and other such traits are the first things that people notice when they see you. 

Let’s look at a negative example first. Your co-workers won’t respect you if you have poor hygiene. They will draw all kinds of negative conclusions about your character and personality. Even if you’re a competent worker, they won’t care because you aren’t a well-rounded person. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can they respect you? 

Now look at the opposite scenario. If you put in the effort to make yourself presentable every day, it shows that you have your priorities straight. You care enough about your job to practice good hygiene and dress up. Your peers will respect you for it. Some might even be jealous, which is an underhanded form of respect that you should gladly accept.

You don’t have to go crazy with the self-care, but you should at least check these boxes:

  • Brush your teeth and bathe every day.
  • Comb or brush your hair.
  • Keep your nails trimmed.
  • Moisturize your skin.
  • Shave or trim your facial hair.
  • Use gum or mints to maintain fresh breath.

Although women are stereotypically more focused on their looks, studies have shown that appearances are more important for men in professional settings. Your colleagues expect you to take your grooming habits more and more seriously as you climb through the ranks.

Healthy people are not only more respectable, but also more approachable. This is simple human psychology. Attractive people naturally gain more respect in most social settings, including the workplace. It might not always be fair, but these are the rules and you can’t change them. Practicing self-care is a must for earning respect at work.

3. Develop a Fashion Sense

Along with your hygiene, you need to have a solid fashion sense at work. If you don’t know how — or don’t care enough — to dress appropriately for work, your colleagues will not respect you. You must honor the company’s dress code and have some presentable work outfits. 

This rule also applies to hybrid and remote workers who don’t have dress codes. Stop wearing pajamas while you work and dress up a little bit. It will help you get into the right state of mind and make you look more professional on video calls. You never know when the boss might want to talk, so dress for the part every day!

Fashion is also a powerful status symbol in competitive environments like the workplace. It shows people your role and influence in the company. The common saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” will always be relevant. If you want to get treated with respect, your appearance must be worthy of respect.

4. Have Positive Body Language

You might have great fashion and grooming habits, but your body language is more important than both. but body language trumps both. You always need to be mindful of your posture, even when no one is looking. Following these rules will go a long way toward earning respect at work:

  • Smile at everyone you interact with.
  • Make eye contact when talking.
  • Have a firm handshake.
  • Put down the phone in social situations.
  • Show interest in the conversation.
  • Keep an open posture – back straight, chest out, eyes forward

Nobody is perfect when it comes to body language, but these small efforts will make you better than most people. Your workplace interactions will be much more productive and you will gain more respect in the process.

5. Word Choice

Your choice of words can make or break work relationships. If you’re passive aggressive or sarcastic all the time, people won’t respect you. On the other hand, if you stay positive and try to keep the mood light, your colleagues will love being around you. Everyone appreciates those co-workers who brighten up the office with their words of wisdom and encouragement.

You should avoid all generalizations, blame games and other types of confrontational language. Teammates can argue, but the argument has to be in good faith. Remember that you’re working toward a common goal and you need each other’s support. Watch what you say and always try to be the bigger person, even when a co-worker is being difficult. Restraint is worthy of respect.

Additionally, nobody respects an incompetent speaker. Stop saying “um” and “like” every other sentence. Speak like a professional, and you’ll get treated like a professional.

Respect is Earned, Not Given

Very few people naturally earn respect from their peers. A vast majority of us have various social quirks that prevent us from reaching our full career potential. However, mastering these five keys will unlock the answer to your job struggles. Earning respect at work won’t happen overnight, but every day of effort makes a difference!

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