How to Earn Your Manager’s Respect

21st April, 2017

We all want to be valued and viewed as valuable at work. But respect isn’t given; you have to earn it. Whether you have a new manager or have worked with your current manager for years, what can you do to make sure your manager appreciates what you bring to the job? What is the best way to build trust? How do you ask for respect if you don’t feel like you’re given it?

Respect from your manager has many layers and begins with being seen as someone worth keeping and someone your manager wants to have as part of his team. This progresses to becoming an employee who is worthy of interesting and challenging assignments, and one that your manager wants to invest in and develop because they think you have a bright future or you make their life easier. Here are some strategies for gaining respect.

Clarify your responsibilities

The first step in earning your manager’s respect is, of course, doing your job and doing it reliably well. Be really clear on critical assignments and how they fit in to the agenda of your manager. Ask your manager what you need to learn and how quickly can you learn it. Then do everything you can to demonstrate that you are getting up to speed quickly, as being a fast learner can gain you credibility.

To improve your own personal performance and achieve more, you need to focus your time and energy on activities that are most important to your performance and achievement of your goals; these are your high payoff activities. If you are unsure about your high payoff activities, goals or KPI’s, clarify these and align with your manager.


Becoming a valued and trusted employee requires that you figure out the best way to communicate with your manager and your team. It is your obligation to adjust your style to your manager’s. Ask your manager how they prefer to communicate. Do they like emails, texts, or face-to-face conversations? How often do they want to hear from you? Once a week? Once a day? Or only when you need them?

Ask them how much detail they desire? Do they prefer you to lead with analysis or your judgement? If there is mismatch between how you and your manager like to work, you need to initiate a candid conversation where each side explains the reason for their behaviour.

Help your manager understand your perspective and the compromises involved as they relate to your ability to be productive. Discuss the situation and make a decision about how to proceed.

Observe and empathise

To earn your manager’s respect, you have to understand what matters to them paying close attention to their priorities and pressures, which are now your priorities. Your manager will be looking for evidence that you are trustworthy – your character, intentions and competence. Figure out how to gain that trust and create the conditions for success by careful observation. Deepen knowledge of company’s priorities, restraints and politics by learning who the manager trusts, who they listen to, where the tensions lie. Your goal is not to get involved in the politics but it is important to understand the politics. As your manager is very busy, any way you can help them do their job or take on a new project, will gain you enormous respect.

Build relationships with others

Earning your manager’s respect is part and parcel of earning the esteem of your colleagues. Your manager is making assessments through observation and also through feedback from others. He is paying attention to how you fit in with the team and the extent to which you build relationships and reach out to other people. The most useful question you can ask is ‘how can I help?’ It’s also worth asking others for their insights and advice on how to best forge a relationship with your manager – find out what works and what doesn’t.

Disagree politely and in private

Avoiding conflict with your manager is not a good way to earn respect. The manager needs to know you have their back and they also need to know when the emperor may not be wearing any clothes (ie. refer to the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes)! If, for example, you believe your team can’t make a deadline for a project, tell them in a private and courteous way. Work as a partnership – if you are partners, you will help keep your manager from making a mistake.

Ask for feedback

No matter how star-studded your performance, sometimes a manager may not recognise your achievements. Some managers are just not inclined to do that. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask your manager, ‘how am I going?’ and ‘what could I be doing more or less of?’ Make sure you are spending at least 5% of your time ‘managing up’. Make your manager look great to his boss. This will not go unnoticed.

Principles to remember

• Adjust your communication and work style to your manager’s.
• Reach out to your colleagues, build relationships and offer support.
• Forge a partnership with your manager. You share a responsibility for making the relationship work.
• ‘Manage up’ – communicate in a way that works for your manager and better understand what they want from you.
• Make sure you are concentrating on your high payoff activities, goals and KPI’s.

• Be disappointed if your manager does not publicly recognise your achievements. Ask for feedback instead.
• Fail to get to know the politics and culture of your organisation; find out who the manager trusts, listens to, and where tensions lie.
• Avoid conflict with the manager. If you disagree, speak up politely and privately.