5 Ways for Young Executives to Get Respect in the Workplace

How to Command Respect at Work, Even if Your Colleagues Are Older Than You

  • Become a Confident Speaker
  • Write Flawlessly
  • Present a Mature Appearance
  • Keep Your Workspace Immaculate
  • Value, Validate and Support Your Colleagues

As baby boomers retire from their coveted management positions in the workforce, young executives are stepping up to fill their roles. If you’re one of these young leaders, it can be intimidating to grow into your role as a leader when a significant number of your colleagues and subordinates are older than you are. Here are 5 ideas for how you can command respect at work as a young executive.

1. Become a Confident Speaker

People sometimes don’t pay as much attention to what you say as they pay to your overall manner of speaking and delivery. To command respect, at a minimum, you want to come across as confident. If you can manage to surpass confident and achieve true eloquence, that’s even better.

Study the examples set by the presidential greats who are best known for their oratory skills. As the youngest man to be elected President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, Jr. stands out as being an outstanding role model for young executives to follow. Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and William Jefferson Clinton were all excellent speakers whose methods you can emulate.

If you’re still in college, it’s worthwhile to take some public speaking or acting courses as electives. If you’ve graduated, you can find books, videos and MOOCs that can help you improve your public speaking skills.

2. Write Flawlessly

Your colleagues may be surprisingly judgmental about mundane things like grammar and spelling — even in casual emails and quick memos. You can avoid needless disparagement by putting care into each communication you compose.

3. Present a Mature Appearance

Observe the top executives at your company — the way they dress, groom themselves and present themselves. Strive to either emulate them or slightly outdo them in the way they look and present themselves. If they dress in head-to-toe Brooks Brothers, you should too. If they dress in khakis, polos and sneakers, you might want to try for a similar but slightly dressier style — perhaps khakis, button-down dress shirts and lace-up leather shoes. When in doubt, err on the side of over-dressing rather than under-dressing.

Recommended: How do I Know if an MBA is Right For Me?

4. Keep Your Workspace Immaculate

There are numerous reasons you’ll want to keep your workspace tidy. For starters, it’s hard for anybody to respect a complete slob. Secondly, messiness can lead to wasted time; you don’t want to spend most of your workday shuffling through stacks of papers looking for the one you need now. Keep on top of filing or trashing papers as their usefulness diminishes. Third, you’ll probably feel and perform better when your space is organized.

5. Value, Validate and Support Your Colleagues

The easiest way to gain someone’s loyalty is to validate them and their ideas. If you genuinely value your colleagues and make an effort to support them in their goals, they are likely to reciprocate that validation.

These are five of the most important things young leaders can do to earn the respect of their colleagues, even in cases where there is a substantial age difference. It may take some conscious effort to master the items on this list; but if you’re one of the young executives who is hoping to make a good impression on your co-workers, the effort is likely to pay off in increased respect and a much more positive image among your colleagues.