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How to Approach an Employee Who Doesn’t Respect You
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In the workplace, respect is something that goes a long way.

It is important for the manager to have respect for their employees. It’s just as important for employees to be respectful of their managers. There may come a point in your role as a supervisor where you have an employee who is not respecting you. Having this sort of conflict can not only affect your working relationship with the employee, but the working relationship with other employees and the work that needs to be done.

Addressing this kind of conflict can be uncomfortable for some managers. For others, it may be easier to express how they are feeling towards their employees, but it is important to keep in mind the right and wrong approach to addressing the situation.

One of the first steps before addressing the employee about his/her behavior is to evaluate yourself as a manager. As a leader, this is something you should be doing frequently, a self-check of your own attitudes and behaviors. Think about the way that you would want to be treated as an employee, and evaluate how you, as a manager, accomplish those desired treatments. If you are finding some flaws in your own leadership, it might be best to start changing your actions and see if the employee’s respect for you starts to grow. If it does not, now is a good time to plan a discussion with the employee.

Before approaching the employee with this difficult conversation, developing a plan for your conversation will help prepare you and minimize the emotions during the conversation. First, answer these questions, to yourself, regarding the situation:

  • “What are they doing, specifically, that is disrespectful?”

  • “Why is this specific behavior disrespectful?”

  • “What specific behavior would I like to see instead?”

  • “Why is the preferred behavior more respectful?”

Coming into the discussion with these questions answered will help prepare you for initiating the conversation. It’s also important to provide specific examples of the employee’s behavior of how they are being disrespectful. After discussing their specific behaviors that send the message of disrespect, open the conversation up for them to explain why they may be showing these behaviors.

It is important to keep in mind the right and wrong approach to addressing the situation.

There may be an easy explanation as to why they are acting this way and a simple solution for improving their disrespectful actions. Throughout their explanation, refrain from repeating things you already have expressed. They know the reason you are having the discussion, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. They might be afraid to answer the questions truthfully, but ask questions and reassure them it is alright to express their answers honestly (as hard as it might be for you to hear).

Once you have heard the employee speak out about why they are showing this behavior, the discussion still may not be over. The disrespect from the employee could stop, or the issue could continue. Either way, it is time to evaluate the discussion and assess what issues the employee expressed. It would be beneficial to reflect on the ways their issues can be solved. This may mean you re-evaluate yourself as a supervisor, or even assess the company culture as a whole.

Throughout the entire process of approaching an employee who doesn’t respect you, it is important to keep the 10 Keys in mind, specifically Keys 4, 5, and 6.

4.    Expecting Excellence—Setting high expectations for employees.

5.    Requiring Accountability—Upholding and reinforcing individual responsibility to the organization.

6.    Valuing What You Believe—Linking employees’ actions/behaviors to organizational values—building a healthy culture.

By using the 10 Keys and planning out your approach before initiating the conversation, it can make the discussion a little less uncomfortable and will help you work towards improving the respect of the employee.  


Danielle McLaren