By HYMA PILLAY
Even in this century, there are women who still feel that they are not receiving the respect they deserve from men at their workplace.
Here’s the thing about respect – it is something that has to be earned. If you feel you are not getting respect, it is not just because you are a woman. You have to claim the respect you deserve.
Here are few suggestions on how you can do that.
1. Look respectable
Although work ethic and knowledge should be the only determining factors when an employee is striving for influence and respect, we are all social creatures and so both appearance and communication come into play as well. So, dress to impress.
What if I told you that you don’t need to dress sexy to make heads turn? You can choose to dress statuesque, aim for a formal beauty and dignity pose instead of a seductive one. Beat the stereotype, keep the maintenance low and the sleeves rolled up.
Be sophisticated, but at the same time be able to get your hands dirty too. Make sure your heels are not too high that you find it difficult to walk long distances, or your accessories too dangly that they sound like chimney bells everytime you make a movement.
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Wear colours that make you look good. When you dress well, your confidence level increases as well. A woman who portrays an appropriate amount of confidence is respected because she is seen as someone who is sure of what she is doing.
2. Carry yourself well
There are women who command respect just by walking into a room. These women know how to look important and in charge without even saying a word. How you carry yourself plays a big role in how people perceive you. Here are a few ways you can carry a confident demeanour:
- Stand straight, shoulders back, head high (but not too high that your nose is in the air).
- Make good eye contact when you are communicating with people.
- Walk with big confident steps instead of timid little girl steps.
- Always have a good and firm handshake.
- Greet others with warm and friendly smiles.
- Don’t stay at the back, position yourself in the power spots of the room.
- Speak up boldly in meetings and team discussions.
3. Speak well
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but yes, communication is key.
When speaking, especially in business meetings, always articulate your sentences well.
Try to eliminate or at least minimise the use of fillers. Fillers are those empty extraneous words that pad our sentences without adding additional meaning to it. Examples of common fillers are “well…”, “I mean…” “like…”. The two most famous fillers are “uhm” and “uh”. Too much usage of “uhms” and uhs” can make it appear that you are not confident with what you are saying.
You can minimise using fillers by limiting distractions. Fillers can represent the bridge linking between planning what to say and executing it.
They can also be caused by distractions; for example you might be thinking about something at home or work while you’re giving a presentation. Focus your mind on just what you are speaking on, and naturally your fillers will be minimised, or maybe even eliminated.
Here’s something else you can do to help improve your speaking skills. Although it is natural for us to let loose and speak comfortably while ignoring almost every rule in grammar, you can try practising articulating your sentences properly while speaking with your friends and family outside of work. Practise forming full sentences, and of course, remember to put aside the “lahs” and the “mahs” for a little while.
Also avoid using words that interject feeling and uncertainty and use words that project confidence, for example, instead of saying “I think this would be a great investment for us”, try saying “this would be a great investment for us”.
4. Step it up
It is difficult to earn respect if your colleagues don’t notice your presence. Step it up and stand out among your co-workers. The first step to this is to firstly understand your responsibilities. Know what it is you need to do, and what your roles in your team and organisation are. Prioritise and plan your work well.
When projects come up, volunteer yourself to be part of them, or even better, lead the project. This will show that you are capable of taking on responsibilities and are willing to make yourself available for work.
However, it is important that before you offer to take on more responsibilities, to ensure that your plate is not already full. You would not look good having a lot of projects but not having the time to see any of them through. Also make sure that you don’t neglect your own responsibilities by focusing too much on other projects. Don’t allow other people to pick up your crumbs by finishing your work. Always finish your work on time and give 100% effort in everything.
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5. Give respect to earn respect
Respect works both ways. If you want your co-workers to give you respect, you have to respect them as well. Respect your superiors’ authority and treat your underlings well. One important thing to remember is to not indulge yourself in office gossip. It happens in most offices; there will always be negative stories floating around about a certain person in the workplace.
Be discreet. Everyone needs someone to share his or her problems with once in a while. When one of your colleagues turns to you to vent their frustration, just listen. Don’t repeat it to another person. If you find yourself being in a situation where your colleagues are bad mouthing someone, you can take a tactful approach and divert the topic of conversation.
Always maintain a strong level of professionalism. No, we women do not need to flirt our way to get on top. We have the brains and ability, and we just have to prove it. When dealing with co-workers and clients, keep appropriate distance and body language.
Finally, just be yourself. Nothing is more respectable than a woman who is content and comfortable in her own skin. You don’t have to try too hard to impress the people around you; being confident in yourself is impressive enough.