“You’ve got balls, Anne.” I just smiled at my boss and ignored him as I walked by. I would never be such a smart ass to any of my other bosses. They’d never call me in to work again. I know, however, that to get on the good side of Gary, one of the most sexist men I’ve ever had the displeasure of working for, I have to put on a front with a lot of bravado. It’s the only way to gain his respect. If Gary says “Jump,” I say “how high,” and then I make sure I leave him with some sarcastic remark, just so he knows that it’s my choice to work. I don’t have to be there. I once heard Gary shout at a girl for five minutes straight for apologizing for something she’d done wrong. “Just do it right!” he yelled. She obviously hasn’t figured out how to talk to him yet. I gained his respect, an elusive feat for most of my other coworkers.
My boss Tom, on the other hand, is very soft spoken. I am happy to do what he asks. I never give him lip, and we get along well. He gets along with everyone. I don’t speak to him the same way I do to Gary. I’ve gained his respect, but I gained it in a very different way. I have come to learn that everyone needs to be spoken to differently. I believe that anyone’s respect can be gained, if each person is approached the right way. Even a girl with the most sexist, backward boss on the planet can gain his respect if she’s smart, quick, and knows how to relate to him.
The hard part is actually figuring out which approach is the best one to take for each person. I hear all the time that people are the same, but it can’t be that simple. People are different, and they need to be dealt with differently. If I treated Tom the same way I treated Gary, I would practically never work at all. To win both men’s respect, I had to learn how to address each of them separately. This ability has made life at work significantly easier, and certainly more interesting. From teachers to peers, bosses to coworkers, respect can be a tricky thing to come by. Getting ahead turns out to be a hundred times easier if you’re respected, and that can definitely be done.
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