Unmanageable? Leading staff who don’t respect your management style

White paper planes following a red paper plane


Even if you’re good at what you do, not everyone who works for you will nominate you for ‘Manager of the Year’.  You’re not alone. Most managers work with at least one individual who isn’t necessarily enamoured with their management style. If there is disquiet about your leadership - and this will manifest itself in things like missed deadlines, skipped meetings, and lack of involvement in projects – it is still possible for you to lead your team to reach your targets. No matter how you feel you’re fairing with your team, read on to remind yourself what you can do to build your management skills.  

Is it really your management style or something else?

Before we examine how you can tackle the problem, here’s another curly question to consider. Is the lack of respect fuelled by personal resentment? If you were promoted above your peers, or if you’re new to the company and some existing staff feel they should have been appointed to the role, then the answer is probably ‘yes’. Their view of your management style is clouded by disappointment rather than being a genuine evaluation of how you lead. This disappointment should fade over time, especially if your actual management style is strong enough to convince them that you got the top job for a good reason. 

Managing a team of individuals: striking the happy balance 

Your desire to give your employees space and autonomy could be misinterpreted by some of them as aloofness. Meanwhile, providing super detailed directions and operating at close quarters might be seen by others as verging into control-freak territory. That’s the risk you take when you manage a collection of individuals – you’ll please some, but not all. You’re probably all too aware that your team is made up of very different personalities, so it’s good to remember that you could win unanimous respect by varying your management style as you interact with each person. Rather than guessing, be direct and talk with each employee and ask how they prefer to be managed.   

Respect is a two-way street

Forbes magazine cited research from Harvard Business Review that showed 50% of employees didn’t feel respected by their managers. As you look to earn respect from your team, ask how much respect you’re showing them. HR media platform People Matters highlight some tried and tested ways you can show more respect to your employees including:

  • Praise hard work.
  • Avoid negative criticism and opt for a constructive critique if required.
  • Encourage development through training, one on one mentoring and subsidized courses.
  • Make inclusion a way of life in the office and give everyone a chance to be heard.
  • Encourage feedback from everyone in the team. This could generate fresh ideas and solutions.

Great communicators make great bosses

Effective communication is the glue that holds almost everything together in the corporate world, including the typical manager/employee relationship. How you communicate with your team might be reflected in the way they interact with you, and improving in this area could help you build a more productive partnership. 

You don’t have to reach new heights as an orator. While you should speak with empathy where required, and clearly articulate your plans and expectations, it’s just as important to listen. Great communicators are not just good talkers, they’re excellent listeners as well. They ask for feedback and they actually listen to it; better still, they follow up on what they’ve heard. Take the initiative and ask individual team members how you could become a better manager. This frames the conversation in a more positive light and shows your willingness to lead effectively, not just authoritatively.  Be prepared to hear some uncomfortable truths, and respond in a way that shows respect for their concerns. Clearing the air, and following up on areas where the manager/employee relationship could be improved, will gain you a good amount of respect.   

Be yourself

Changing your management style to earn respect might be a necessary adjustment, but if you take things too far you might come across as inauthentic, causing further alienation. You were appointed to the role because someone saw something in you that appealed as management material. By adopting a false persona in an attempt to be everyone’s friend, you’ll lose the authority you need to successfully manage your team.  

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