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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Breaking Down Our Industry’s Disrespect Problem

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Last week, I wrote about disrespect toward women in the financial-services industry and what can be done about it. But to have a broader perspective on how to solve all issues of disrespect, we — collectively as an industry — cannot ignore disrespect when it happens to men. 

Based on my experience, I have seen disrespect happen to men by both men and women in two major forms.

First, this happens through the twisting of words. This form of disrespect toward men (and women) involves those looking for ways to present themselves in the best possible light and/or garner attention. 

They do so by pointing out imperfections of someone else’s words, for instance, and by twisting them out of context. In fact, there is a term for this behavior: spin doctoring. 

The easiest way to see “spinning” in business is when it becomes personal. At this point, the calling out of names begins, either publicly or privately. 

Personalization does not belong in business, especially since there are many times when we have to make very hard (sometimes painful) professional decisions. 

A good rule of thumb is this: If you don’t have the courage to express your issue directly to the face of the person you are talking about, why are you talking about them at all?

Second, we all know that men tend to be competitive. I realize that men competing in business, etc., is not new. Yet, unfortunately, there are some people who tend to be more focused on exposing the flaws of their “competitors” than solving the flaws of their own business and character.  

Next Steps

Hopefully you can see the problems here. For one thing, every minute spent thinking about another person’s flaws is time not used thinking about and dealing with your own business. 

The only legitimate reason for it is if you know or suspect of a person or firm of acting illegally or unethically toward their clients or employees, and/or of committing a crime. In the case of crimes, we have professional and regulatory organizations and law enforcement to call. 

What’s clearly disrespectful behavior is when unfounded accusations about professional colleagues are made without any facts to back them up and/or plain and simple lies are being spread, including spin doctoring. To put it in plain English: Defaming is not okay. 

Defaming is done out of a fear of something or someone. But here’s a fact: A winner-take-all market is not allowed in the U.S., where we conduct business and have anti-monopoly laws. 

There’s room for all people, no matter their gender, religion, ethnic background or whatever. Communicating on a personal level to somehow hurt the competition is creating rivalry where disrespect lives. 

Business to business competition is expected. Personal to personal is disrespectful.  

As I wrap up this three-part series on disrespect in financial services and how to end it, I wanted to emphasize that that disrespect happens when something or someone needs attention.

The best way to give the person or matter the attention it needs is to do these four things in as healthy a way as possible to end the disrespecting:

  • speak up directly to the person doing the disrespecting and do so respectfully; 
  • remove yourself from the conversation or walk out respectfully; 
  • call those in charge or law enforcement if the behavior is threatening/illegal; and 
  • finally — and this is the hardest and most important of these four steps — look in the mirror. 

Without a doubt, it’s best for you to trust yourself. You alone have the power to give attention respectfully.

Anything less, is disrespecting yourself.  As I said in my first blog about disrespect, change in financial services begins with you and me.


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