Respect. A defining word not only in society but especially in our professional lives. One word that makes all the difference in defining who you are and how others will view you.

We all crave it. We spend far too much time babbling on about how others need to show us some. We screech at deafening levels every time we believe someone has failed to show us a proper level of it. We puff out our chests and demand it because of our “standing” or our “earned” position in life and workplace.

Yet for all the bluster and buffoonery about how much we demand and deserve it, we stick our overtly proud noses in the air every time it’s our turn to deliver the goods.

When it comes to showing respect for our fellow workers and those we seek to or already conduct business with, we as a Nation honestly suck at respect. We far too often see it as beneath us, a sign of weakness or capitulation, perhaps even a dent to our character and our image as now showing the strength we believe we have earned.

I not only see it every day, but I’ll wager more than a few of you reading this have already been offended that I would dare to question how you show respect to others.

And that is perhaps the greatest part of this problem. We have transformed into such an arrogant, spiteful, self-important society that even when our faults are exposed in the light of day for all to see, we lash out in anger instead of seeking to learn more about ourselves and fix the problem.

It’s a problem we’ve created for ourselves, and one that takes so little effort to rectify.

The manager who has made a conscious decision to undermine an employee simply because they don’t like the manner in which they go about their jobs. Forget whether or not it’s productive, that’s not the point. The stick here is the individual granted a position of authority has decided that for some personal reason, they cannot and will not respect the level of work being delivered. The decision has been made that to show respect for this employee might be seen as a sign of weakness and damage the standing of the manager within the company.

It’s a form of cowardice, one the manifests itself when a manager fears for their job because the employee might actually be revealing a better way to get the task done efficiently and at a greater level of productivity.

How difficult would it be to show respect for the ideas of others and champion their cause? Why not bury the yellow streak and show some leadership?

The employee that has decided he or she can do a better job than anyone else around them, forgetting they haven’t taken any real initiative or put in the hard work to create a better working environment. The ones who show little respect for management or co-workers out of sheer jealousy, firm in the knowledge they deserve a better position simply because they have convinced themselves and bloated their ego to the point of self-imposed authority.

Why not show some leadership and understand nothing and no one succeeds without teamwork, without utilizing and capitalizing on the strengths of everyone?

The lack of respect we show each other on a personal and professional level is truly epitomized in the lazy and insulting manner we communicate, or in many cases, fail to communicate.

E-mail, text messaging and default answering systems have turned us into automatons of disrespect. What was supposed to make us a more efficient society has instead turned us into cowards, liars and failures at both leadership and integrity.

We hide behind e-mails, making us little more than textual teflon unable to be reached or touched by those we are too cowardly to face. We choose texting instead of talking because making the contact less personal somewhat shields us from responsibility. We fall back on the automatic answering systems because being able to hit “delete” makes us feel powerful and untouched.

Where did the “human touch” go and why are we so afraid of it? When did we become such comfortable cowards in actually talking to people?

I personally witnessed an instance where a very powerful individual in his business received an exceptionally polite e-mail from someone seeking a position. The person sending the e-mail was very experienced, very professional, and was merely reaching out to network and seek guidance in the hope it might led to something.

The “boss” in this case turned to me and said, “I’ll just ignore him and he’ll go away. I can’t be bothered with people trying to kiss my ass for a job.”

My response was, “What would it take to just respond with a thank you, a line or two of support and leave him with a positive feeling about his search?”

The response was terse and accompanied by a subtle laugh. “Fuck these people. I don’t have time for such nonsense.”

That was the last time I ever spoke with this “boss,” realizing I had no desire to be connected with nor work with someone who treated people with such a low level of respect. Or as I like to call it, a high level of cowardice.

I respond to every e-mail. I return every phone call, at least the ones that don’t originate with someone trying to sell me a compost farm in Africa. And I return every text. I at the very least acknowledge the individual and some respect. Who knows what may come of it? It could one day benefit us both. It could rekindle a friendship.

It will make us both respectful of one another and show a level of integrity and leadership.

Those who show you little or no respect are the people you must exorcise from your life. There is no need to have them as friends, colleagues, acquaintances, contacts or even remote associates. They do little more than make you question yourself and what you’re doing.

Toss them onto the trash heap of life and move on. Stop wasting your time with cowards and frauds.

Your integrity and self-worth is much much more than they could ever deliver.