Calling Someone TL Does not Equal Respect

If you have spent any time in a call centre environment no doubt you have grown accustomed to the lack of names used in every day conversation. Calls of TL or boss fill the room…. Oh, and “I have a question”, but that’s a whole other discussion.

These formal and impersonal greetings took some getting used to. I would always prefer that someone just call me by my name, or better yet a creative nickname! Being called boss I used to find uncomfortable, but over the years I just got used to it and accepted for what it is intended to be – a sign of respect.

The issue of respect is at the heart of why this cultural norm creates issues.

The biggest problem I have always had with this implied respect is that an egotistical manager feels they deserve respect for no other reason than their title. Anyone who approaches a management role with this attitude is destined to fail the first and basic test of being a good leader.

If people don’t like you, they will not want to work hard for you. Being in a TL role, or any other type of leadership position, does not make you entitled to anything… You have to earn the respect of your people from the first day. The bigger the title, the more people you have to earn that respect from, and the harder you have to work to achieve that.

If you are appointed into a leadership position then no doubt you had to work hard to get there. However, this is an internal victory. It is achievement to be admired, but this doesn’t mean that everyone will. When you start that role then you are back to zero. Square one again, and you have to prove yourself.

If you do not feel that you are out of your comfort zone on day one then you are most likely in the egotistical camp and will probably be a shitty manager. So humble yourself, and get to work.  Otherwise the battle is lost before it begins.

People might call you TL when they talk to you, but what do they say when the talk about you? What do their actions say? People addressing you with a title is just surface noise and not a true sign of respect. However, if it is offered as respect then accept it an appreciate it. 

The whole title argument I have also observed as the supreme excuse to hide behind another cultural norm of shyness and avoiding potential confrontation. As a manager you will often have people in your team who disagree with your point of view. This is something to be encouraged as opposing view points often lead to productive discussion and a better outcome. However, if that person does not speak up because they “respect authority” then the opportunity for that discussion goes with it.

There is also the risk that this person may proceed to voice their disapproval to others, and is something that happens frequently with certain personality types. The question must be asked which route is truly respectful of authority and which is not. The latter approach is not shyness, its spinelessness hiding under the cloak of “respect.”

I don’t think that it is hard to see that the spineless approach is ultimately disrespectful and the individual’s self rationalisation is complete rubbish. 

For the manager without ego, there remains the risk that this assumed level of respect could blind them to their true position in their team. Being called TL may give them a false sense that all is well within the group. This is a lesson that many leaders will learn the hard way.

There are assumptions made on both sides that addressing someone by title equals respect. It doesn’t. It matters far more how someone acts rather than what they say. If you are to be a strong manager you have to look beneath the surface. If you wish to convey respect to your manager then respect them with honesty. 

Also check out my top tips for a new Team Leader here.

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