The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The art of respect

boy singing on microphone with pop filter

“I don’t get no respect” – Rodney Dangerfield

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Rodney Dangerfield was a fixture on the comedy circuit and famously used that phrase to express his station in life.  Underappreciated, disrespected, undervalued, and generally dismissed.  Of course, he was a brilliant comedian using it as a bit to empathize with his audience and to make himself the butt of the joke.  Fast forward to a recent episode of The Profit with Marcus Lemonis.  In it, he is considering an investment of a company that makes kit homes that could be a solution to the affordable housing challenges in the US.  I watched with interest as they debated construction process, margins, cost of goods, and supply chain challenges.  Those were not what really grabbed my attention.

The husband-and-wife team that owns the company got into the thorny discussion of personnel, hiring, retention, and attitudes.  The wife finally comes forward with her reservations around some of the employees who are part of the construction team in the warehouse.  Her words struck me as familiar and saddening in 2021: “we have some old-school guys who don’t like taking direction from the ladies.”   You may be thinking that this is still a regular attitude that you confront on job sites, in project meetings, with clients, or even within your organization.

Yes, the industry is changing yet women still only comprise about 10 percent of the workforce.  Yes, there should be equitable treatment and respect for any team member who is qualified, responsible, and productive.  Yet, some of the attitudes persist.  It is difficult to change attitudes which is the challenging part of the equation and, perhaps the most important element is how you react to those situations.  Consider these approaches:

➤ Provide Effective Feedback.  If you are in a people-manager role or have oversight responsibilities, how much value would you estimate a team member provides if there is a lack of respect?  In those moments, bring the issue out for discussion.  The closer you can have that conversation to the incident, the more likely the offender will recognize the impact.  Starting with – “I don’t think you intended to leave that impression” can be a way to take some of the friction out of the conversation.  Then move onto the impact the attitude is having on you and others.

➤ Acknowledge all contributions.  With organizations, projects, and teams, individual contributions are often opaque, and their value not always connected to the overall success.  In my career, I have heard project managers diminish the impact of staff members in the marketing or HR departments.  Why? They had not made the connection that without marketing, there would not be a robust backlog of work or without the efforts of the HR team there would not be enough staff to execute the work.  And those departments do a whole lot more than that.  Pull your team together so everyone can understand that each person is critical to the overall success.  Pull back the curtain so everyone’s accomplishments, talents, and skills can be displayed.

➤ Might does not make right.  You can try and address the attitudes with the application of brute force.  As a parent, the “because I said so” approach never seemed to work out too well for me.  Taking a direct and conversational approach worked a lot better though not when your two-year old is in full meltdown.  Hopefully, you are not dealing with a full meltdown because we would be talking about a very different situation.  As you initiate the conversation, find someplace private.  Even though the person may not have shown you respect, do your best to respect and preserve their dignity by avoiding a public airing of grievances.  That might just be the hardest part.

There may come a time when you have exhausted all options and no matter how technically brilliant a team member is, the damage to the team can no longer be tolerated.  In that moment, I fall back on the concept of “addition by subtraction” for greater teamwork, collaboration, and stability.  Hopefully, it does not come to that.

Unfortunately, you may still be dealing with these types of situations.  Take them on individually and, hopefully over time, you can have a meaningful and lasting impact on our industry so future generations can feel comfortable and secure showing up for work as they really are – valued, appreciated, accomplished, fearless, and respected!

I look forward to continuing the conversation and, if there are any topics you’d like to see covered, you can reach me at