We know the Golden Rule. We went to first grade. But in case you need a refresher, the Golden Rule is, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Now, it’s important to remember, we were very young when we heard this rule for the first time. In most cases, we were presented with this rule on the heels of something like biting our sister or taking a toy from someone else… Something pretty juvenile. For the most part, though, the Golden Rule holds up the same way chocolate milk boxes do – it’s a classic, and it’s a good rule of thumb.

As we grow up though, we start to notice that not everyone wants to be treated the way that we want to be treated. In fact, treating others the way that we want to be treated might come off as rude, haughty, or even mean.

Take, for instance, a case in which your boss comes in, does not invite any conversation, shuts the drawer, draws the shades, and stays put (silently) for a full eight hours, emerging only for wordless bathroom breaks and to buy a sandwich at the vending machine. He doesn’t speak to you all day.

Or, in the Zoom age, let’s imagine that your boss schedules meetings only when she has something extremely urgent to talk to you about, and she keeps those meetings strictly focused on professional topics, ending the call in five minutes or less and asking no questions about your personal or emotional life during this troubling time. She sends e-mails once a week detailing projects without any pleasantries at all.

Now, the first boss actually saw that you seemed engaged with your work, and didn’t want to distract you in any way by speaking to you. He knows that when he is in the zone, he hates having someone speak to him, and he wanted to give you that much-desired courtesy.

The second boss doesn’t like to discuss her complicated emotions surrounding the pandemic with co-workers and didn’t want you to feel like you had to discuss issues that might make you uncomfortable with her. She’s also very conscious of the fact that you’re working from home with two young children, and she doesn’t want to take up any of your time unnecessarily, because she doesn’t like to feel like she’s wasting time.

These people are well-intentioned. But perhaps for you, the first boss seems disengaged with his employees and arrogant. The second boss seems blissfully ignorant of the very real challenges you are facing and entirely aloof in her approach to her employees.

The Platinum Rule says that we should treat others the way that they want to be treated.

Let’s imagine this situation differently. What if your boss understood that you appreciate and value greetings and encouragement even when you are very busy.

So, he comes in and says good morning, and leaves his door open telling you that if you have any questions he would be happy to discuss them with you. This simple change moves your boss from being arrogant and disengaged to friendly and thoughtful.

Or in the second case, she e-mails you once a week to remind you of a resource she found for working from home in the age of Zoom or a fun socially distanced activity. In meetings, she asks how your kids are doing and whether you have the resources you need to work effectively from home. Suddenly, your boss is actively recognizing your challenges and engaged with her employees.

It is amazing how much of a difference it makes when people treat us the way we want to be treated, right? We can see it easily in the actions of others.

The important thing is that we also adopt these behaviors.

So, we know that our boss doesn’t like to be interrupted when he’s busy. Even though he now has a generous open-door policy, we should take note of whether he seems to be “in the zone” and perhaps come back later with our questions when we are able to do so or avoid asking if he wants to come to lunch today, maybe wait until tomorrow.

Or we know that our boss feels uncomfortable discussing the challenges facing her during the pandemic, so, instead, we ask her about horseback riding, a hobby about which we know she is passionate and able to continue enjoying even right now.

These small changes on both ends can help to build a much healthier relationship between you and your employer. This relationship is what can help propel your career forward, as you are able to mutually support one another. You will also enjoy your job more if you are able to foster this sort of healthy relationship. So, maybe platinum really is the new gold.


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Carson serves as a consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies. The author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, her views have been included in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, and The New York Times.


  • Carson Tate

    Productivity Consultant •Speaker • Author • Leadership Coach