No one likes to get dissed, not you, and not your coworkers. Disrespect comes in many forms, and perhaps even you are guilty of being disrespectful. And while rude behavior may merely cause people to like you less, sometimes it can get you in real trouble.

People who act disrespectfully toward others are unmanaged with their behavior and are often working out of insecurity or aggression. So if you are engaging in what you view to be playful insults or taunts, others may view this as disrespect, and your reputation can suffer.

Furthermore, disrespectful behavior stifles communication and creativity and contributes to a hostile work environment. Rather than focusing on the job, people will distract themselves with avoiding insults and rude interactions, thereby crushing performance and productivity.

So take a moment to look at whether you’re engaging in any of these harmful misbehaviors and get on the path of respect.

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Passive-Aggressive Insults

Generally speaking, when passive-aggressive people are upset or angry about something, they indirectly display their feelings with a cheerful or neutral demeanor instead of being direct and honest about perceived slights.

Passive-aggressive behavior can be condescending and insulting. And this can include saying things like:

  • I guess you weren’t as capable as I thought you were
  • I would explain this to you, but that would take too long
  • I admire someone who can get away with dressing like that

In each case, there is no direct reference to the perceived issue. Instead, the person is taking a jab while dancing around the issue.

A person could also make these statements in a light-hearted or joking tone, but the receiver will likely feel insulted. If you feel compelled to say “I was just joking” or “lighten up” after someone appears upset by your statement, then you probably insulted this person.

If you find yourself engaging in passive-aggressive insults, you may want to reflect upon why you are acting like this. Do you feel uncomfortable with conflict? Do you have a hard time articulating your feelings? In the past, were you made to feel as though your feelings don’t matter?

Whatever the reason, passive-aggressive behavior is self-limiting and stifles career growth and personal development. If you are engaging in passive-aggressive insults, improve your skills in conflict management and constructive criticism.

Sexual Harassment

Unless you live under a rock, you should already know why sexually harassing your coworkers is a terrible idea. Your company likely has sexual harassment policies in place, and you may have even received training.

Despite all the attention, lawsuits, and training, sexual harassment persists as a workplace issue. Consider the following statistics:

  • 1 in 5 adults re sexually harassed at work
  • 75% of harassment victims experience retaliation after reporting it
  • Nearly half of all EEOC complaints are sexually based
  • 71% of women who are sexually harassed do not report it

If you are suffering the false delusion that your charming personality makes your advances welcome, then you are setting yourself up for HR hell and potential legal issues.

Even if your sexual harassment goes unreported, you could be costing your employer in lost productivity, higher turnover, and tarnishing the company’s reputation.

So do yourself and your company a favor; don’t sexually harass your coworkers.

Unwanted Physical Contact

Not all physical contact is sexual, and therefore it may be easy to excuse getting touchy with a coworker because it’s not groping. This could come from a hug, shoulder massage, or resting your hand on their leg/arm while speaking.

Not everyone is comfortable with physical contact, and not everyone is a hugger. And even if the physical contact is not sexual, someone may still report it that way. So take a tip, and keep your hands to yourself.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse in the workplace is disrespectful and may include any of the following:

  • Baseless accusations or assignments of blame
  • Angry outbursts or yelling
  • Gaslighting
  • Namecalling and insults
  • Threats
  • Lying and manipulation

Verbal abuse is an intimidation technique to gain compliance from others. So if you’re verbally abusing your coworkers or subordinates, you may be getting results and see this as a practical approach. But this is not sustainable, and you’ll find yourself left in the dark as people avoid interactions with you.

Furthermore, you’ll be responsible for contributing to a hostile work environment, decreasing productivity, and increasing employee turnover. And if people tend to be upset or angry around you regularly, you may be a workplace bully.

If you are a verbal abuser or bully, then you should put a stop this behavior. You may be getting your way around the office for now, but you are putting yourself at risk of disciplinary action or termination. Plus, your coworkers will not respect you and may even band against you. This could mean that HR will receive a mass influx of complaints, and then you will again find yourself in HR hell.

Another reason to quit being a verbal abuser is that it is stressful. Work is already challenging, so what’s the point of making it more stressful for yourself? Do you like the idea of your coworkers having it out for you? Do you want a talking-to from your manager?

To curb your verbal abuse,  start by reflecting on your behavior. Think about the recent times where you verbally abused someone. What could you have done differently? Would you categorize your behavior as respectful? You must become vigilant in your interactions, and take time to consider your responses carefully to ensure respect.

From there, you should start reading books on verbal abuse and gain an understanding of why you react this way. If you find yourself feeling lost, do not be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional for further guidance.


Microaggressions are casual remarks or actions that are unintentionally derogatory toward a person’s age, sex, race, or other distinguishable feature. These often take the shape of well-intentioned compliments but instead come across as tone-deaf or ignorant.

Some examples of microaggressions include the following scenarios:

  • A man telling a woman that she did an excellent job of controlling her emotions during a difficult conversation
  • A white person complimenting an African-American on how well-spoken or articulate they are
  • Asking someone, “where are you really from?”

Although these comments may appear harmless or complimentary, they are insulting expressions of surprise or disbelief that the person doesn’t fit within a stereotype. So they come across as sexist or racist.

Whether you choose to believe these are offensive statements or not is irrelevant. At the end of the day, if someone makes a complaint about you being racist or sexist, you will end up on HR’s radar. And your reputation within the company may falter, which impacts potential raises or promotions.

To play it safe when complimenting someone, focus on the person’s actions or individual qualities. Anything you say should not factor in the person’s race, sex, or other features.

More often than not, microaggressions are born of ignorance, so the next step is to educate yourself on issues of sexism and racism in the workplace. You don’t have to become an expert, but you will be doing yourself a favor if you can at least understand how to respect your coworkers and keep yourself out of trouble.

Vulgar or Tasteless Behavior

Depending on where you sit, there may be people within earshot. And it only takes one person acting in an offensive or tasteless manner to sour the office environment.

Examples of vulgar behavior include:

  • Telling crude jokes
  • Loudly bragging about off-hours “adult” activities
  • Cussing
  • Burping or farting loudly
  • Yelling at your computer
  • Making sexist or racist remarks

Perhaps you look at this list and feel like people need to lighten up. However, whether it’s due to religious, political, or other values, some people will be made to feel uncomfortable by these behaviors. And their complaints could get you in trouble.

The truth is, none of the items in this list bring any value to any workplace. So you may get a modest amount of joy from these activities, but they do not enhance your ability to do your job.

If your company starts to get complaints, they will not tell the other employees to get over it. They are going to ask you to act like an adult and respect the peace. So this is one area where you should respect the workplace as a common area, not your house.

Disregarding Boundaries

Personal boundaries are essentially a person’s limits and rules when it comes to interactions.

Everyone has different comfort levels, so the same rules and limits don’t apply to everyone. This means that even though you’re good with something, such as indecent behavior, that doesn’t mean everyone else is.

In the context of the workplace, this often extends itself to intrusions into people’s personal lives. Some people like to keep the separation between their personal and professional lives. Meaning they’re not going to be too keen on sharing details on their personal life or hanging out after hours.

Instead of browbeating these people into accepting your invitations to hang out or share family stories, you should leave well enough alone and respect their wish for privacy. This isn’t a personal slight or a show of distrust; some people just like to be left alone.

How to be More Respectful

Learning respect in the workplace is essential to your career growth. So if you want to improve in this area, start by taking a tip from the girl scouts:

  1. Listen and be Present – When someone else is talking, don’t distract yourself from what they’re saying by formulating opinions or responses in your head before they’ve finished speaking. If you don’t quite know what to say after someone has spoken, buy yourself some time by repeating what they said. This shows that you listened and understand what they said. You don’t have to agree with them, but you should at least develop an understanding.
  2. Be Thoughtful of Other’s Feelings – It feels terrible when you’ve been disregarded or disrespected. Guess what; this makes other people feel awful too. So think about that during interactions and try not to give people those feelings.
  3. Acknowledge Others and Say Thank You – People who steal credit for everything suck, and they are also very pathetic. So if someone contributes to your project or helps you out, be sure to thank them and give credit where it’s is due. People will be more motivated to work with you, and there is always plenty of credit to go around.
  4. Address Mistakes with Kindness – Everyone makes mistakes, including you. Mistakes are just a fact of life, and the average employee makes 118 mistakes per year. If you resort to judgments, finger-pointing, or blame, guess what happens when you make a mistake. Yes, you get the same treatment. Instead, focus on the actions that lead to the error and help the person avoid making the same mistake in the future. Show that you are an ally, and people will be willing to give you the same benefit in the future.
  5. Make Decisions Based on What’s Right, Not Who You Like – It’s excellent having work friends, but don’t let it affect your decisions. Playing favorites in the workplace is a surefire way to create resentment and impact morale. Be objective and consider everyone involved.
  6. Respect Physical Boundaries – Just because you like greeting with hugs doesn’t mean everyone wants greetings with hugs. Remember, unwanted physical contact is highly disrespectful and, in some cases, may be viewed as sexual harassment. So your best bet is to be respectful and keep your hands to yourself.
  7. Live and Let Live – People spend a lot of time and energy getting into other people’s business and trying to convince them how to go about it. What works for you doesn’t work for everyone. So the most straightforward option here is to simply not do that and let other people handle their own business.

Final Thoughts

Navigating social interactions at work can be challenging. At times it may feel like everyone is hypersensitive, and you can’t say anything without offending someone much less demonstrate respect. I can tell you, though, this mindset will put you on the wrong foot in your interactions.

Learning to talk to others like an adult and having even superficial, yet pleasant, interactions with your coworkers will help reduce workplace stress and make the day more enjoyable. After some time, you may even find yourself connected to the company’s internal network!

So, do yourself a favor and show some respect.

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