About the Golden and Platinum Rule…

‘Knock, knock, knock’… and it grew louder. I sprang out of my bunk to check what the time was and it was around 1:30 AM. This is back in my shipping days and on that day I was the duty engineer. On a ship when you hear the door knocks so late at night, you assume something critical has come up.

I opened the door, to see the Captain of the ship. In an angry voice, he said ‘‘it is too cold and I want the temperature up by one degree’’. For a moment, I was taken aback and said ‘‘Sorry Captain, I don’t understand’’. ‘‘What is it that you don’t understand, it is too cold and I want the temperature up by one degree. You are the engineer on duty, so, go fix it’’ was his even more angrier reply. I acknowledged and told the Captain that I will fix it. (I am not getting into what happened post me saying I will fix it and why the captain behaved the way he did).

In another incident, I once had a manager who asked me to come over a weekend to do some very trivial work, knowing very well that I was unwell and needed the rest. There are many more such instances that I can think of. In fact, if we all go back and think, we would have had many such instances where our bosses, team members, peers, vendors, partners and customers would have had crazy expectations and behaved in a rather erratic manner.

It is always interesting to note that if we went back and did something similar to the other person, how unacceptable it would be to them. To think about it, how is it acceptable from their perspective to behave in that particular way?

In many ways, leadership and being humane is about treating others the way youwould like to be treated. This is the Golden Rule. ‘Timeless Advice for Making a Hard Choice’, https://hbr.org/2016/08/timeless-advice-for-making-a-hard-choice is a very good read on this topic published last month in Harvard Business Review.

There is another point of view, The Platinum Rule, that talks about treating people the way they would like to be treated.

“The Golden Rule is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule, on the other hand, is to treat people the way they would like to be treated.”

In either case, it is about being sensitive to the other person in all interactions and decisions.

Like the HBR article summarizes at the end – “Don’t think your position in society or in an organization exempts you from basic human duties. Don’t get trapped in your own interests, experiences, judgments, and ways of seeing the world. Do everything you can to escape from your egocentric prison. Try hard, on your own and with others, to imagine how you would feel and what you would really want and need if you were actually that person”.