“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” advises the Golden Rule. In other words, treat others in the way you would like to be treated. Though the advice can lead children to act with more generosity and kindness, the Golden Rule does not serve modern business leaders well. Instead, manage by the Platinum Rule: treat others how they want to be treated.
Why the Golden Rule Is Problematic
The Golden Rule fosters fairness and encourages empathetic thinking. But few rules are truly one-size-fits-all, and like many principles, the Golden Rule is not absolute. The Golden Rule has limitations, oversimplifying and homogenizing differences as well as arrogantly deciding what is best for other people.
All people are not alike and all situations are different. The rule broadly assumes people share similar experiences and hold common interests. Interacting with people from different cultures and generations highlights how such assumptions are not applicable.
An approach that aims to treat others like you want to be treated ultimately is a self-centered one. If you want to be treated in a certain way, then others must want that same treatment, right? Wrong.
Reasons You Should Practice the Platinum Rule
Effective business leaders know that you need to tailor your management style for the situation and adjust your approach to each person. Though you manage teams collectively, you must also manage the team members individually.
Treating people how they want to be treated recognizes the individuality and agency of each person. When you follow the Platinum Rule, you demonstrate respect for your employees, care for their needs and validate their individual contributions. Practicing the Platinum Rule builds better relationships with your team, with greater respect and trust. Relationships are essential to building a company.
The Platinum Rule is more than just treating people as they prefer. It also relates to learning what rewards motivate each person and what they need to be more successful. If you follow the rule, you can be sure that you are actually doing what the other person wants and giving others what they actually want and need.
As our workplace composition shifts, the Platinum Rule becomes even more relevant. New generations in the workforce necessitate new ways of leading. Millennials, the largest demographic of workers now, and the younger Generation Z, some of whom are now entering the workforce, seek a different type of leadership. In general, the things you might want, or might have wanted when you were their age, probably don’t correspond to what they want since their life experiences shaped their expectations differently. They expect leaders who act authentically, take interest in them as people not just workers and appreciate their individual abilities and contributions. They do not want to be treated as you might want or even how you treat everyone else on the team.
Leading With the Platinum Rule
Attentive, authentic, adaptable leaders manage with the Platinum Rule. This approach helps individual employees become more successful and strengthens their relationship with you. More successful individuals create more successful teams and, ultimately, more successful businesses. So, don’t assume you know how to meet individuals’ needs. Instead, ask, “How would you like to be treated?” You might be surprised by the answer, but don’t be surprised by the better outcomes.
Questions to Consider
- Are you treating each member of your team the way they want to be treated?
- Do you know what motivates each member of your team?
- What’s your first step in changing to the Platinum Rule of management?