How Do I Demand Respect?


Dear 40-Somethings,

I recently graduated from University and I’m working as a Sales and Marketing Assistant. I have been here for close to a year and I have found that the hands-on experience is very valuable, especially in learning professional interpersonal communications.

That is, when no one rocks the boat. Recently things between our company and a company we have hired to perform a service have started to turn sour and I need to be more assertive.

I think people in the industry and from other companies recognize my ‘newbie’ status and they try to take advantage of that, or they do not show me the respect they would show my boss.

Do you have any advice on how to demand respect from other professionals, not seem weak because of inexperience, and have the confidence to go toe-to-toe when things get a little ugly?


Dear 20-Something,

There were two themes to today’s answers. The first — you can’t expect respect, you have to earn it.

“Keep doing your job and do your job great and you will earn the respect that you deserve.  There are no short cuts.  Be true to yourself and do your thing with dignity and it will all pay off tenfold.” – 40-something, runs own event planning business, NYU professor, producer

The second type of response included tactical ideas to help you gain respect, from finding mentors to getting a self-promotion strategy.

Let’s start with the former. Many women’s first response was that you can’t demand respect. It may seem to be skirting the issue …or perhaps a reflection of the 40:20 entitlement debate, but the good news is that hard work does pay off. The harsh reality is that sometimes it takes time.

A 20-something needs to hear that it is going to be tough and you have to figure it out. You could be an amazing person but if you don’t figure out the politics and the situation you are dealing with you can’t be successful.” – 40-something, sales/business development, tech industry, New York City

Certainly 20-somethings today are a force to be reckoned with as the most educated and achievement oriented generation and many have accomplished respect-worthy deeds… but for most of us, it takes time.  Have patience was the word!

“It can take time to earn respect. Being good at what you do will eventually be noticed. When I started I was the only female and 10+ years younger than the next youngest person. But in time, the “old boys” recognized my talent & training and soon I was given respect. Be good at what you do, find a mentor if possible, and stand up when you know you’re right. In a polite way, of course.” – 40-something, doctor, married, Los Angles


 “You can’t “demand” respect from anyone. You’ll naturally be more assertive if you know your stuff and have a vision for your deliverable/task. Your confidence will come with time and by earning a positive reputation for doing good work. What’s your rush? Treat others as you expect to be treated…what goes around, comes around. Believe it.” – 40-something, publishing industry, Washington DC


“Do your best work, make specific suggestions when appropriate, but don’t assume, if your ideas aren’t used, that it’s just because you’re a ‘newbie”. We tend not to know what we don’t know. It’s only in retrospect (and long afterwards, generally) that we realize how young we were in our twenties. You will get the most out of your early work years if you see them as learning experiences and approach your jobs with humility. It will make you much more popular with the bosses, as well.” – author, columnist, Washington DC


40;20 perspective at it’s wisest. Now for some specific suggestions to get creative getting the job done and earning respect:


Market your successes…

 “Find objective examples of how you demonstrated value and learn how to talk about them in a way that earns confidence. You have to develop a portfolio of success. Listen, keep your eyes and ears open and be really good at your job. Market your contributions. When you do something well have  proof points – like I did this for a tough client – and sell what you did.”  – 40-something, marketing executive, New York City


Ask for strategic support…

“See if you can leverage your direct support and understand what boundaries you can push. Sometimes my boss gives me the leeway to do what I want and I push the boundaries. Other times you have to enlist their help. When you do, know what you’re asking for. Don’t I say I need help or so and so is not listening to me. My boss would kick me out of his office. Understand what you are trying to achieve for the company, define the problem, and articulate the perceived gap. Then you can discuss and assess how to engage your boss or get it done yourself. – 40-something, sales/business development, tech industry, New York City


Fake it ‘til you make it …

‘You have to fake it until you make it. You are in that stage. You are probably perfectly competent to handle whatever it is …but you are not communicating that competence.  Your boss probably has because her or she has done it again and again and again. If you are second guessing yourself, people will feel it. And….if you don’t look the part they well never give it to you. Always dress and behave like next promotion or you are never going to get It.” – 40-something, marketing, luxury / arts industry, New York City


“Take your experience level out of the situation for a moment. You have a job that needs to get done — and a company that has been hired you to assist in accomplishing that goal. You have to step up and know that you own that responsibility and if that takes being assertive or a little outside your comfort zone, then you have to do that. That is your job.”


Get creative…

“You have to be creative. Understand the situation. Know the politics. Figure out the motivations of that other person. You have to learn how to manipulate the situation.” – 40-something, sales/business development, tech industry, New York City


Get a mentor…

“Find a mentor. Find one person who you trust in the organization who is senior. Talk about the scenarios to understand the political landscape. If you have met all your markets, you can then say I’m not being heard, I am not getting credit I am not being supported. — marketing executive, New York City


Make sure you look the part…

“It’s’ what you wear, your tone of voice, your hairstyle, It’s the way you phrase questions and answer, whether you are looking people in the eye – whatever it may be for you.

Ironically it is not about you…It’s not you getting respect it is about what you can do. How can you add value?  Because that will translate into success for your company and, in turn, respect for you.

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