First bump between colleagues at work.
Entrepreneurs are said to have egos. That’s a fair assessment — I don’t know a single founder who doesn’t have a need to be seen, to leave a mark on the world. But the entrepreneurs I know need something far more important than that: respect. They want people to understand how valuable their time is. The problem is that many of them fail to extend that same respect when it comes to their team members’ time.
As noted in a previous Forbes article, respect is the third most important thing employees look for when seeking a new job. While that may not be top of mind for you, it certainly is for others. Eighty percent of employees surveyed in a study cited in the Memphis Business Journal said that “lack of respect is a serious problem in the workplace” — and that it was getting worse. Another study found that 63% of those who don’t feel respected intend to leave their present job within two years.
A failure to make respect for time mutual can hurt your company on more levels than you realize.
Making Respect a Two-Way Street
When you take a step back to think about it, it makes sense. When you feel valued and respected at work, you’re more engaged and satisfied. There’s also less conflict and stress, and you rarely feel your voice isn’t heard.
After realizing this, I’ve done my best to extend to others the respect that I expect. Mainly, this consists of being more transparent, empathetic, and mindful of my emotions. But it’s also about respecting other people’s time.
You may think you don’t “waste” anyone’s time. Intentional or not, here are some common ways we’ve all done it:
- Scheduling unnecessary or last-minute meetings
- Going over the allotted time for a meeting
- Tardiness, such as arriving late or missing deadlines
- Not respecting boundaries, such as calling a colleague at 11 p.m. or emailing at 6 a.m. on a Saturday
- Interrupting people when they’re speaking or clearly focused on their work — cues like wearing headphones or closing their office door signify interruptions aren’t welcome
- Assigning or delegating a task to someone at the last second or when he’s already working at full capacity
- Filling a person’s inbox with messages that have no real value
- Not responding to important messages or keeping people updated on your progress
- Breaking promises, such as having a reputation for canceling meetings at the last minute
- Being unprepared, like arriving at a meeting without having reviewed the agenda
Not only are these actions disrespectful, but they’re also impacting others’ performance.
These actions waste their time and interrupt flow.
For every minute you waste of someone else’s time, that’s one less minute that he can’t spend working on his goals or priorities.
Meetings are a great example. Let’s say you’ve scheduled a mandatory status meeting for an hour. Ideally, that could be discussed via a quick one-on-one, conference call, email, or Slack thread. Instead, you’re pulling your team away from work for an hour. In reality, it’s actually more than that — people, on average, spend 4 hours and 15 minutes preparing for these types of meetings.
Even more detrimental is that this also interrupts people’s flow. Put yourself in their shoes by recalling a time when you were laser-focused on a task and “in the zone.” Suddenly, there’s a knock on your door or a smartphone notification buzzing. It may only seem like this distraction ate up a minute or two of your time. But, according to a University of California, Irvine study, it takes 23 minutes to regain your focus after being interrupted. If this happens throughout the day, how can you or your team possibly get anything done?
They hold them back from moving forward.
We’re rapidly approaching tax season. That means my company must collect and submit the appropriate records and forms to our accounting department in a timely manner. If not, our accountants won’t have the documents needed to file our taxes by April 15. Besides inhibiting their ability to do their job, we’d risk penalties.
That may feel like a wieldy example, but this happens on a smaller scale all the time. Let’s say it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. You ask an employee to speak for five minutes about a project before leaving for the weekend. Because you’re in no rush, you don’t catch up with him until 15 minutes later. You then chat for half an hour. He should have left at 5:00, but now it’s 5:30 and he’s running late to his kid’s basketball game. If you’d spoken with him earlier or just emailed, he would have had the information he needed to complete his work while still leaving the office on time.
In short, when you’re not respecting others’ time, you’re holding them back.
They prevent others from maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Finally, everyone needs downtime to rest and recharge. Breaks are necessary to replenish your brain’s energy. What’s more, in my experience, companies that intentionally empower their employees to take downtime experience higher morale and creativity. If people are able to recharge their batteries, they have more to give to both their personal lives and their work.
But if you’re constantly contacting your teammates when they’re off the clock, when do they actually have the opportunity to rest for success? You may think this makes them less “committed to the cause,” but remember that you’re the entrepreneur — not the other way around.
As a leader, you need to set the bar so others follow suit. That means not arriving late to the office or to meetings. It’s being mindful of deadlines and boundaries. And it demands that you enhance your emotional intelligence so you’re more self-aware and empathetic.
When you show others this level of respect, it will not only improve their performance, but they’ll also return the favor. You’ll end up with a more productive and positive work culture — for everyone.