Signs of Disrespect at Work and How to Build a Culture of Mutual Respect

Are you experiencing disrespect at work? Respect isn’t something that should only be reserved for those in charge—a healthy work environment is built on mutual respect that permeates throughout the entire organization.

Managers should have respect for their direct reports, employees should have respect for coworkers, and so on. It doesn't matter what your position is within a company; people should be respectful towards you, and you should give respect back in return. A business that champions respect will ensure everyone feels valued, turnover remains low, teams are able to collaborate effectively, and everyone trusts one another.

This article is all about respect in the workplace. We’ll discuss why it’s important for a healthy work environment, how to spot disrespect at work, what to do about it, and how to handle disrespect coming from a manager or boss.


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The Importance of Respect in the Workplace

Everyone in the workplace deserves respect. You don’t need to agree with everyone you work with—you don’t even have to like everyone you work with—but you do need to be respectful.

Understand that everyone you work with has their own communication preferences, personality traits, background, and personal situation. Your differences are what establish a balanced, creative, and diverse workplace. Treating others with respect in the workplace ensures everyone feels comfortable and welcome. Without respect, team members may begin to feel isolated, unappreciated, and in the worst cases, discriminated against.

Mutual respect in the workplace establishes a positive environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, trust, and loyalty. Respectful work environments are built on fairness and inclusivity. Everyone is a valuable member of the team, and they should be made to feel that way. 

Workplace respect also reduces turnover as team members who are respected by everyone they work with feel valued and are therefore less likely to leave for another job. If employees don’t feel respected in their current job or role, they will seek respect elsewhere.

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Signs of Disrespect at Work

Disrespect at work comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be obvious and blatant, such as bullying or discrimination, or it can be more subtle, taking the form of passive aggressive behavior, rumors, and dismissive remarks.

Signs of disrespect in the workplace:

  • Managers micromanage everything and everyone
  • Those in charge continually change their mind without considering the impact on the rest of the team
  • Everyone feels replaceable within their role
  • There’s a lack of transparency—only certain team members are kept in the loop
  • Rumors spread throughout the workplace
  • People talk about one another behind people’s backs
  • Smaller cliques form within the organization, making the workplace resemble high school
  • Each person’s time is not valued or considered
  • Very few explanations are given for why decisions are made
  • Disrespectful or rude comments are made without any repercussions
  • Body language is dismissive (i.e., eye rolling)
  • People take credit for other people’s work or ideas
  • Employees are underpaid based on industry standards
  • Employees are overworked without any consideration of burnout

If you believe you are experiencing disrespect at work or are working in a workplace culture that lacks respect, you should speak to HR or your superiors to see if they are receptive to your concerns. It could be that it’s something your company and management cares about but is unaware of. Clearly explain yourself and use detailed examples to back up your claims.

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If the people you speak to are unreceptive, unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do. One thing you can do is lead by example, going out of your way to respect all those you work with. But this can be a difficult task when you work in a disrespectful work environment. You can also do your best to focus on your own work, goals, and development. If your situation allows it, you may want to begin looking for another job or consider a career transition.

💡 If you dread going to work every day, it may be time to make a change: When and How to Make a Career Transition.


How to Build a Workplace Culture of Mutual Respect

Establish a Culture of 360 Degree Respect

Respect should come from every direction. It’s not exclusively designated for management and leadership—every person in the organization deserves respect, no matter their role.

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For this to happen, it needs to start at the top. Leadership needs to lead by example and show respect for everyone in the organization. Ensure all management within your organization understands the importance of respect in the workplace. Share examples of respect in the workplace, resources, and strategies for how to lead with respect.

Make sure respect runs throughout the company, both internally and externally. Respect must be maintained between all team members, clients, industry peers, and community members.

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Lead with Transparency

Disrespect in the workplace can creep in whenever there’s a lack of transparency. Lack of transparency means that the team needs to fill in the blanks, which leads to stress, uncertainty, competition, and rumors.

Be clear about what’s going on in the business and keep everyone on the team informed. Secrets only cause drama and the spread of misinformation. When people don’t know what’s going on or hear secondary information, they begin to feel undervalued and may question their position within the company. Prevent employee disrespect by being open and honest with the entire team.

💡Keeping secrets suggests you have something to hide, which breeds suspicion and cynicism. Learn about the benefits of transparent communication and how to build transparency into your company culture.

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Respect as a Core Value in the Workplace

If you truly hold respect in high regard within your organization, make it one of your company’s core values. Company values are the rules your business lives by. Core values guide your entire organization’s decision making, including hiring decisions, the clients you work with, how you promote the business, and everything in between.

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Build a Culture of Continuous Feedback

Gathering continuous feedback from everyone in your organization helps you catch issues before they develop into larger ones. Managers should provide regular, constructive feedback to team members, but it doesn’t stop there. Team members should also provide feedback to their managers as well. This way, everyone has a chance to express concerns in a constructive format.

The feedback needs to be respectful and constructive. Focus on what each team member can do to improve their performance. The key is feedback needs to be continuous—consistent feedback must be ingrained in the company culture. Collecting feedback sporadically can make people feel uncomfortable and less receptive to the feedback they receive.

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Don’t Tolerate Disrespect in the Workplace

If you want to prioritize respect in the workplace, you need to have a no tolerance policy for disrespect. This doesn’t mean punishing people automatically; it means taking the time to both train your staff and thoughtfully mediate any issues that do arise in the workplace.

Ensure everyone understands your policies around respect. Put protocols in place to ensure disrespect is dealt with quickly should it start to arise.

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Respect in the Workplace Training Activities

Invest in team building activities that promote mutual respect across your organization. Team building helps team members get to know each other beyond the daily grind of workplace tasks. Team building is especially important for remote teams that don’t get to interact in a physical workplace on a regular basis.

It may take away from direct productivity, but team building is a worthwhile investment that leads to team cohesion, understanding, and improved respect.


What to Do if You’re Being Disrespected at Work by Your Boss

Disrespectful Boss

Dealing with a disrespectful boss is a little different than dealing with a peer. Your boss or manager has power over you, and if they are ineffective at their job, they may treat you poorly and dismiss your concerns.

Be strategic when confronting a disrespectful boss, and remember their communication preferences. Do they prefer an upfront approach, or do you need to ease into the conversation?

💡 Understanding the Enneagram type of your boss yields powerful insights into their communication preferences, values, and idiosyncrasies.

Remember that even if they are out of line, they are in control and could determine your fate within the company. That said, blatant disrespect, discrimination, or harassment at work should never be tolerated. No one should treat you disrespectfully because of your gender, race, religion, age, or cultural differences. Speak to the HR department if you believe you are experiencing discrimination, research your rights, and hire a discrimination attorney if you need one.

If you’re not in a position to leave your job, narrow your focus to your own personal and professional development. Remember that there’s only so much that’s within your control. Focus on your own circle of control to make the best of your current circumstances.


More from Blue Summit Supplies

💡 Learn how to survive a toxic workplace, including actionable advice for managing negative and manipulative people at work: How to Survive a Toxic Workplace.

💡 Even one intimidating person in an office can foster conflict, stifle creativity, and make a company less desirable to work at. Learn How to Handle Intimidation at Work.

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Jordan's passion for travel led her to design a career as a remote content marketer. Nearing 1000 published articles, she's spent the past decade using her interdisciplinary education to research and write content for a wide variety of industries. Working remotely, Jordan spends half of the year exploring different corners of the world. At home, she's content exploring fictional lands—Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Game of Thrones, Red Rising, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings.

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