“Do Unto Others …”

This is the sixth in an occasional series of posts on the topic of “Managing By Cliches.”

We often talk in HR about big ideas — “cutting edge” practices and “strategic visions,” and the like — and this is a very good thing, as it helps us help management guide the organization forward.  At the same time, we might sometimes be prone to forget what employees really want from their employers, and what puts them in a place to contribute to organizational success — that is, respect, dignity, being “heard” and taken seriously.

A “Smack In The Face” Reminder

As I was scrolling through some Twitter messages the other day, I saw one that mentioned a website for “workplace humor.”  I clicked on the link and quickly became engrossed in PleaseFireMe.Com, which features pages and pages of postings from discouraged employees.  (I imagine that there might be many similar websites — I had never thought to look before).  What I saw there made me chuckle, shake my head, and wince, disturbed and discouraged me, and finally, encouraged me.

  • Chuckle — at the silliness of office life (we all have a hundred examples we could fill in here, I’m sure) — like the employee whose co-worked whistled the theme from “Rocky” every time he thought he did something productive
  • Shake my head and/or wince– at things that would be funny if they weren’t true (in a Michael Scott from “The Office” kind of way) — like the employee whose boss has called him “Carl” for the three years he’s been there (his name isn’t Carl)
  • Disturbed and discouraged– by seeing how many people are subject to work environments ranging from oppressive to downright illegal (e.g., sexual harassment) where they don’t feel they have any “power” or choice other than to “take it” day after day — like the boss who thinks nothing of standing in the middle of the cubicles and yelling at someone, “Are you f—ing stupid!”

The post that said, “Please fire me … my soul is dying” just about said it all.


How could I possibly say that reading this website was encouraging? After sorting out a mix of emotions, I came to feel one thing.  That is, the “cure” for so much workplace pain and dysfunction is very simple — hard to achieve, but simple.  That is, manage by the “Golden Rule” of “do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you” — showing respect and dignity for all who we interact with.

Happily, all decent and thoughtful managers already conduct themselves in this way … and that’s why they have employees who may not agree with every decision or love every task they’re asked to perform, but will move heaven and earth to get things done out for them (implicitly responding to the respect and care they are shown).  These aren’t the folks we’re worried about, of course.  It’s all the others who — whether due to stress, or being mismatched with their management duties, or any number of other reasons — behave poorly, disrespectfully, boorishly, etc.

The “Simple But Difficult” Fix

It strikes me that the “fix” is …

… training, training, and more training for first-line supervisors (who are “the company” in the eyes of their employees)

… having the courage to fire those who “don’t get it”

… on a daily basis, reinforcing a culture of dignity, respect, and valuing others.

The encouraging part? As opposed to contending with a world of external forces beyond our control, all of the above is fully within our control … if we have the will and the stamina to make it true, day after day after day.

It turns out that the “Golden Rule” is a good management and business strategy. If we can do this, it’s untold how much productivity, energy, and contribution we can unleash.  Encouraging, indeed!

One response to ““Do Unto Others …”

  1. Interesting article. However I think there is a typo in the golden rule – replace the final “you” with “them” and the answer becomes much more interesting. I use this as one of my keynote themes and it never fails to get the room thinking – so important is it that I belive it to be a fundamental of HR strategy.

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