The Importance of Self-Respect at Work


“People are the most important thing.” But when you bring that understanding into the workplace, who comes to mind? You probably think about your co-workers, your employees, your business partners, and your customers. But who’s not on that list yet? Who’s usually missing from these conversations? You are. That’s right. Most people don’t pay nearly enough attention to how they’re treating themselves. Self-respect is a huge part of tending your own garden and strengthening your foundation in the world.




The Importance of Self-Respect in the Workplace

When you come up through the workforce, you’re told to listen to your boss and get along with your colleagues. You could even say that’s “Workplace 101.” But when you get a little more experience, you realize it’s not so cut-and-dried. What if someone says something that’s a little out-of-bounds? What if they ask you to do something that they don’t realize is illegal? What if they’ve asked you to work a 90-hour week for the fourth month in a row?



People have great intentions, but every now and then, they cross a line. When you respect yourself, you help nip a lot of that in the bud, because you create an expectation for how people are allowed to treat you. Whether it’s with your colleague, a customer, or a financier, self-respect is all about setting a boundary and enforcing it.

Think about self-respect as your Bill of Rights within the workplace. You have the right not to be bullied, marginalized, or headlocked into delivering on impossible expectations.


The Benefits of Self-Respect

Self-respect is a human right. But further, when you respect yourself, you also enjoy a few really specific benefits. First, The Mayo Clinic, which is consistently ranked as one of the best hospitals in the U.S., explains that it makes you less susceptible to fear and anxiety. Second, they say you’re more likely to form healthy relationships and avoid unhealthy ones. And third, you’ll be more confident in your ability to make decisions and more assertive in expressing your needs. Those are all huge “must-haves” in your professional tool belt. You’ll not only feel more comfortable asking for opportunities, but people will feel more comfortable giving you those opportunities.


How to Respect Yourself in the Workplace

Set and Enforce Boundaries Life comes at you fast, and sometimes, it’s nice to know where your line is before you end up in an “iffy” situation. So, give some thought to what you’re comfortable with, then make sure your work interactions meet the standard.


Push Back Politely

There’s a great book about negotiation and conflict resolution called Never Split the Difference. It’s by a former hostage negotiator named Chris Voss and the book contains a ton of gems. But among the best was when he explained, “The people you appear to be in conflict with are not your opponents. They are your partners.” That’s a great way to think of conflict at work. These aren’t your adversaries. They’re just your colleagues. Like any relationship, sometimes you hit a pothole. But it doesn’t have to be some huge, tense moment.


Respect Yourself by Putting Your Weaknesses in Context

Your failures don’t have to define you. See them for what they are: lessons. Be gentle with yourself. Take your lumps and move on. That’s exactly what Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab, did. Going into his senior year of college, he had a perfect 4.0 GPA. But that perfect track record was shattered after he failed a final exam.


Trust Yourself

It’s obviously really important for all of us to take constructive criticism. Feedback is a gift. But don’t incorporate that feedback blindly. You know yourself and what you can do better than anyone. Deloitte, a leading consulting firm, found that performance reviews ended up saying much more about the reviewer than they did about the employee they were reviewing.


So, make sure you’re empowering yourself to do the same. When someone makes a comment or critiques your performance, take it for what it is. It’s one piece of data. Now make sure you’re weighing that against all of the other data you’ve collected over the years. If you decide there’s a pattern and something to improve on, great. Go for it.


Be a Part of Creating a Supportive Culture

You might’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street and loved it. But that sort of “dog-eat-dog” culture is best left in the movies.


Part of self-respect is knowing when you’ve seen enough and it’s time to turn the page. If you really think it’s time, take that brave journey into the next chapter. Because you deserve a fresh start where you’re valued. Respect yourself by never settling for anything less than the treatment you deserve.

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