Signs of a Disrespectful Culture

As a coach, it’s easy to spot the signs of a disrespectful culture. A work environment where leaders disrespect their people has both obvious and subtle indicators. Generally, the disrespectful traits of the leader migrate down the line to the employees, since the culture is reflective of the leader. When disrespectful traits are widespread, the indicators become more repetitive and easier to spot.

  • Rudeness or abruptness: This inconsiderate behavior is harsh and offends people. It can take the form of interrupting people, talking over them or always having the last word.
  • Sarcasm, insults, profanity and verbal attacks: Employees often take on the leader’s bad behavior to either find a way to survive, or release the anxiety caused by the leader’s style.
  • Disfavoring people: Typically, it is communicated via the leader’s opinion of an employee’s qualifications, work ethic, loyalties, employment history or association with certain colleagues.

Subtle indicators of a disrespectful leadership or culture take longer to recognize. I look for and explore:

  • Silence: When feedback and free expression are not welcome, managers or key employees are silent about disturbing issues.
  • Shoot-the-messenger: When the status-quo remains unchallenged, a culture of shoot-the-messenger may have taken hold.
  • Stagnation: A lack of ideas, creativity or problem-solving may mean that employees feel too disrespected and demotivated.
  • Stressed-out: Overloaded or anxious staff are indicators of unmet needs, typically manpower, tools, equipment or funding, and suggest lack of recognition, neglect and disrespect.

It Starts with the Leader

Workplace culture begins with the leader – the tone of your environment is, and must be, set by you. If there are signs of disrespect around you, it’s likely you are a large factor. This is the time to do some serious self-assessment. Turn to a trusted colleague or executive coach for objective perspective.

The key is to recognize any disrespectful thought patterns or behaviors within yourself, and make corrections. It’s not enough to simply eliminate your disrespectful behavior, rather, you must offer respect in ways you may not have thought necessary. As any coach will tell you, it is very necessary.

Learn and practice expressing genuine respect; regardless of any demographic. The mistake many leaders make is downplaying this subject, giving it low credibility. Great leaders testify to the fact that respecting their people is one of the most critical (and rewarding) responsibilities they have, and how adopting this mindset has made all the difference in the success of their organizations. Once respect is engrained into their culture, leaders understand they can never go back.

What do you think? What signs of a disrespectful culture have you seen? Have you left an organization because of disrespectful leadership behaviors? Do you struggle with this issue? Let’s discuss! You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.