5 Ways Managers Show Respect to Employees

Employees equate respect with actions on the part of the supervisor that say, “You are a valued member of this team. How can I help you be successful?” Yet research has shown that more than half of the employees polled did not think their bosses showed this type of respect.  

When supervisors don’t interact regularly with the team, don’t communicate well, or don’t know enough about the work employees are doing, it can cause people to feel disconnected and de-valued.


A Respectful Supervisor positively influences employee motivation and retention through behaviors such as:

   • Having Regular One-on-ones with Employees
   • Providing Tools and Training
   • Showing Concern
   • Being the Boss (in a productive, professional manner)
   • Staying “In the Know” About Employees’ Duties

Let's look a little more closely at each of these main points...

1. Have Regular One-on-Ones with your employees

Some studies show that as much as 89% of employees want to meet with their manager at least once a month. That’s because “one-on-ones” are the perfect time to build rapport, go over assignments, discuss goals and obstacles, and address anything that might be on the mind of either party.

While in the one-on-one meeting, be sure to do these three things:

a) Communicate expectations

When you communicate clear expectations it demonstrates that you want the employee to succeed.  (Conversely, a lack of direction or unclear expectations can set an employee up for mistakes and “do-overs”.)

As projects are assigned, clarify precisely what the deliverable is to be, the deadline, approval steps needed along the way, and any other important details. It’s also important to convey your belief that the employee will be successful in doing this task. (It’s been proven that when employees perceive their supervisors expect them to do well, they perform better.)

b) Problem solve

One-on-one meetings are also a great time to problem solve with employees. Ask them if they’re experiencing any problems or concerns, and then help them think through possible solutions. Listen non-judgmentally and provide any support they might need in tackling their problems.

c) Give feedback – both positive and negative

Most employees want to know how they’re doing and where they stand.  So don’t wait until a once-a-year formal performance appraisal to offer feedback.  On a regular basis, let employees know where they are performing well. This positive feedback tells them that they are highly valued.  (Note: Your praise is most effective when it is specific, demonstrating that you’re paying attention and that you understand the task.)

When employees aren’t performing up to expectations, address the problem quickly – this will reduce defensiveness and increase the employee’s chance of correcting their work or behavior. Focused, non-accusatory, factual conversations offer excellent feedback and coaching opportunities.

2. Provide Tools and Training

The focus today is on coaching employees in a growth mindset”. That means providing employees with the tools they need to complete their tasks, and the training they need to continually learn and grow (and even advance) on the job. Sometimes, an employee will take the initiative to ask for a work tool or extra training; other times, you might recognize a need, or ask them if there’s anything they need to be more productive or effective at work. It helps to ask the employee about their goals in this job and their career, in general, so you can provide relevant opportunities for them.

3. Show Concern for Employees

A third key ingredient in being a respectful supervisor is to show concern for your employees. Try to get to know at least a little bit about each employee; ask how things are going and listen openly to what they choose to share. Some will be more forthcoming than others. Remember that people have lives outside of work. Not only is it interesting to learn about your employees’ interests, hobbies and families, but it’s also useful in understanding when an employee comes to you with a work-life conflict. Supervisors can be flexible – without compromising standards of performance or company policies – when employees need assistance balancing work and home life.

4. Be the Boss

Lest you think all this respect stuff makes you “soft” or wishy-washy, let’s be clear: you also show respect by taking control, being a confident leader, and making tough calls when necessary. Being a supervisor or manager isn’t about pleasing “all the people all the time.” There will be times when people won’t like your decision. When that happens, strive to keep the work environment productive and collaborative, and if appropriate, explain the context and rationale for your decision to help folks understand.

5. Stay “in the know” about you employees’ duties

Lastly, keep yourself informed about what your employees do – their daily responsibilities and what it takes to do them. That sounds like common sense, but employees often feel disrespected when a supervisor makes a request without comprehending the details of executing that request. If you don’t realize the time and effort involved in what you think is a simple task, it may alienate the employee you’ve asked to do the task. Also, it improves your understanding of your department’s operations when you know what each of your employees does on a daily basis, (and even step in to do their jobs from time to time). Of course, occasionally doing every employee’s job isn’t practical if you have a large team but making the effort to learn what everyone does will demonstrate your respect, and will earn you respect from your team, as well.

The degree to which an employee is motivated depends in large part on how they feel they’re being treated. Those who feel respected are more productive, engaged, and committed to the organization.

For training on how supervisors convey respect see The Respectful Supervisor: Motivating and Retaining Employees. It depicts the five skill points presented in this post and provides additional information on how it’s done.

You may also want to review our companion program, The Respectful Supervisor: Integrity and Inclusion which helps managers see the role they play in creating an inclusive, harassment- and discrimination-free workplace.

For training on providing an inclusive, harassment-free environment for your team see How Was Your Day? Getting Real about Bias, Inclusion, Harassment and Bullying and Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work, Manager Version.

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