Respect is one of those things that’s hard to gain and easy to lose. But respect is vital to a work environment. Without mutual respect, employee productivity goes down and more mistakes get made because people just don’t care about their job when they are treated with disrespect. They bail ship as soon as they can, and this becomes a vicious cycle of losing good employees and retraining their replacements. Building mutual respect in the workplace is an ongoing task that must be a high priority for management and employees alike. Here are a few ways to build and maintain mutual respect in the office.

Lead by example
Unfortunately, this is a rare management style in today’s corporate environment. But no matter if you are the CEO or the last man hired in management, you will earn your colleague and subordinate’s respect only when you practice what you preach. To do anything else puts yourself above them, which immediately shows disrespect. If you expect them to stay late to finish a big project, you’d better be willing to do the same yourself and to let them see you with your sleeves rolled up, working away. As soon as you have a different set of rules for yourself or a select few, you’ve detonated a ticking bomb – no one does their best work when they feel they like a peon who must do as their master bids.

Communicate openly
Regardless of how difficult it is, it’s important to remain open and honest in your communication with your staff and co-workers. When people attempt to push down their resentment or anger, they can easily become passive-aggressive and bitter. Clearly, this is no way to develop a good working relationship in the office. But when others know they can count on you to communicate honestly and sincerely, mutual respect is built because they know they can trust and count on you.

Be transparent
When employees are always having to guess, what’s going on with a company or department, they feel disrespected. Obviously, their opinion and experience doesn’t count, since they haven’t been invited to join the discussion. When changes are occurring in the structure, policies or procedures within the company that will affect them, let them know. Ask for their feedback, if possible, especially if management might actually use some of their suggestions for changes. This type of “behind closed doors” bargaining breeds contempt and fear. It kills morale and makes employees distrustful of their employers.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. RESPECT is earned not given.