Being young in the workplace can have its challenges.
You’re at a different time in your life than most of your coworkers and you have not yet built the strong professional reputation and network that comes with years of working. Misconceptions about the new generation of workers can have a negative impact as well. Without the experience and proven results to back you up, gaining respect from your coworkers can sometimes be difficult.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s a certain level of respect and professional courtesy that should come along with getting the job. Your employer saw some potential in you when they hired you (otherwise they wouldn’t have) and your coworkers know that. But there’s a difference in being respected as an employee of the company and being respected as a valuable member of your team.
How do you do this? First and foremost, work hard (and then try harder).
Respect is not automatically given, can be lost in a moment, and can take time to be earned. If you’re not trying your best and giving it your all, your coworkers and your boss will take notice. Doing the bare minimum will not only get you overlooked in future promotions, it will also give you a reputation as a mediocre worker. You do not want that. Trust me.
If you’re putting all of your effort into your work and still feel as though you are not being taken seriously, there may be other things you can do to gain more respect in the workplace.
1. Earn Respect Before You Demand It
If you go into a new workplace with a “God’s gift to this earth” attitude, you will put off a lot – if not all – of your colleagues. Instead of demanding it, show them why you are worth it.
2. Know Your Worth
This may seem contradictory to the previous point, but you also need to know what you bring to the team. Don’t speak of your worth. Prove it. Finding a happy balance between these two points is key.
3. Dress Professionally
Though this should be obvious, I think it’s worth stating. Even though not every office requires strict business attire, there is always a status quo for what is considered appropriate. Get to know the culture of your office as well as the company’s dress code. Take note of what others are wearing and try to follow suit. My preference: “It is far better to be overdressed than underdressed.”
4. Use Proper Spelling and Grammar
For the love of all that is holy, please read (and re-read if necessary) your correspondence before sending it out. The younger generation already gets a bad rep for terrible spelling and grammar, so don’t give fuel to the fire. Nothing says unprofessional more than an email full of mistakes.
5. Quit Apologizing So Much
Yes, I hail from Canada, the land of “I’m sorry.” Many of us do not see apologizing as a bad thing; however, overusing it can be. A lot of people say sorry when they are in a situation that should not require an apology. For example, use “would you mind repeating that?” instead of, “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” Do apologize when it is necessary and use other language when it is not. Be sure to always take ownership of the mistakes you do make and NEVER blame your mistakes on someone or something else.
6. Avoid Office Politics
It’s always best to be neutral when starting out as a new employee. Your coworkers may want to vent to you about other colleagues or a difficult work situation. Do not engage in negative talk. Listen to them, be polite, and do not take sides. Avoid office bashing like the plague.
7. Knowledge Is Power
Learn everything you can about your industry. Read articles and keep up to date on news and trends in your line of work. Learning does not stop when you finish school, and being current in your industry knowledge is essential. Employers often hire younger workers because of their energy and new ideas. Being more knowledgeable will also help you be more confident in workplace conversations and meetings.
8. Keep Your Commitments
If you say you will do something, do it. Do it well and do it in a timely manner. Avoid constant rescheduling of meetings. Attend everything you commit to (including social work events). Never let yourself be known as the flakey coworker. Let your colleagues know they can count on you.
Remember, respect is not earned in a day. Allow your employer and fellow employees time to see your strengths and the value that you bring to the team. You know you’re worth it, show them too.