Fear Is Not Respect


Well, it happened again. Someone I know just through business networking events, we’ll call her “Jane Doe,” was going on and on about how much her staff needed to respect her more. “I’ve earned it,” she proclaimed. Jane was quite insistent on how she “demanded respect” with the many ways she forced her staff to do her bidding.

I thought much of her bragging should have been embarrassing to her. You may be the employer, but demeaning employees who fear for their jobs is not my thing. And I can’t see how this does anything to make these employees better workers or more customer focused.

In my opinion, Jane was soaking in the fear she created and fooling herself to believe it is respect.

Fear is not respect. Fear is aggressive and incites reaction. Respect is assertive and brings response.


I see too many people like Jane who bully to create fear and resentment, then claim it’s respect. Either they don’t know what respect is or in their need for respect they will take anything close and claim it. In the meantime, the great employees leave while the bad or scared employees stay. What value does that add to an organization?

Occasionally we meet prospective clients and in the course of learning more about their needs and issues, we also learn much about their business culture and leadership. Here are some unscientific observations I’ve made about many “demanding” business leaders:

1. If you have to keep saying you demand respect, then you clearly have not earned it. Solid, healthy leaders don’t keep disrespectful staff but they do keep intelligent people who are safe in expressing their own points of view.

2. If employees operate in fear of being fired at the whim or disposition of a boss, they will both hate their job and do nothing extra to help a company grow. These employees keep their mouth shut and do only enough to get paid; only the desperate work in such an environment, a work place that is not mentally healthy for anyone.

3. People hate to be shoved but love to follow. Now we all need a proper nudge ever so often. Sometimes, we need a friendly push. But don’t expect much growth from people who are regularly berated, tricked, embarrassed, and yelled at.

4. Listening is either selective or turned off. We hear what we want to hear. Everything else is just noise that is immediately (or soon) forgotten. The babble of the bully boss has to be ignored or one can’t survive it and remain emotionally healthy.

Naturally, I’m sure you can add to this list and we all have stories of the disasters brought on by bully bosses. The best leaders I know have great empathy and respect for their teams, the exact opposite behavior of the bullies. Leadership is behavior based. What is your behavior?


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at glennsphillips@nerdtoenglish.com.

Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2013. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.