A Tale of Three Rules

So, if you remember my last post, you’ll remember the greasy, slick, gold-chain wearing trainer from the new manager seminar I attended earlier this week. Yes, I’m going to slightly rag on him again.

If you know me, you know I grew up in a Christian home and most of the values that I learned there I have tested and accepted as an adult. Some things I have set aside, not always because I believe they were wrong, but just not for me. Some would call that picking and choosing my beliefs like Christianity was some kind of an al a cart religion. Call it that if you would, but know that of the core beliefs, the ones which really define who a Christian is, I keep.

Thus it was a bit odd to me to hear something said during the seminar about a ’Platinum Rule.’ It just seems so odd to me that someone thinks they can improve upon a teaching of Jesus. Its not that his teachings were totally comprehensive, as I can’t find anything in there regarding Internet Porn, but they do seem to be fully directive. If you study enough, you’ll find something that at least relates to whatever situation in which you find yourself.

When I heard what the Platinum Rule was all about, I was even more surprised. Our car salesman explained it like this:

Two people work at the same company and perform generally the same jobs and their performance level is generally the same. The real difference between these two people is that one of them is an introvert and the other is an extrovert. Now, the extrovert is on a project that finishes early, is under budget and delivered extra functionality to the user community. Great job all the way around, a perfect project win! The boss gathers the team and spends a few minutes publicly congratulating the extrovert, who eats it up! We extroverts love the spotlight. A few weeks later, the introvert’s project completes and, like the extrovert’s project, comes in early, is under budget and also delivered extra functionality to the user community. Yet another great win for the team. The boss gathers everyone together again and this time spends a few minutes congratulating the introvert.

But not everything is good this time. The introvert doesn’t like to be acknowledged in that way and would be much happier with a quite ‘thank you’ in their office and then allowed to go back to doing their every day good job. The boss, himself an extrovert, did unto both employees as he would have done unto himself… ie, publicly congratulating them. The boss’ actions describe the Golden Rule, doing unto others, but that rule failed. Why?

The boss did not take into account the Platinum Rule. This rule says that you treat others as they want to be treated, not how you would want to be treated in their situation. If the manager continues to give the introvert something they do not want, public accolades, then the introvert will stop producing at such a high level of effectivity so they can avoid being made into a public specticle.

Back in college, in my comparative religions class, I heard about something called the Silver Rule. This was similar to the Golden Rule, but put in a 'negative’ phrasing. Its negative not as in bad, but in the sense of it being a reverse. It basically states, if you don’t want bad things done to you, then don’t do bad things to others. Not necessarily a bad philosophy. Where this rule differs from the Golden is that the Golden is a bit more proactive and focused more on producing positive actions than refraining from negative ones.

But the more I think about it, the more the Platinum Rule really just bothers me. It took me a while to figure it out, but I know now why it concerns me so. It all comes down to negative need. The Platinum Rule assumes only the positive aspects of what someone needs, but ignores when someone really needs something in the negative.

Lets flip the situation around to having an introvert employee who is really underperforming because they simply don’t want to perform. Now, the manager could simply leave the employee alone, which is what the employee wants, but is not what the employee needs. I am not saying that the manager should bring the employee out and make a public spectacle of their failure to perform, but to give the employee what they really feel they need, to be left alone in their office, is not good for the manager or the employee.

Another way the Platinum Rule fails to fully understand the ingeniousness of the Golden Rule is in the level of application the Golden Rule allows when truly practiced. Doing for someone else as you would have done to you does not imply a strict, same for same transaction. It is more akin to the 'walk a mile in their moccasins’ than it is 'an eye for an eye.’ The extrovert boss should know their introvert employee well enough to understand what it is that employee needs and act in that employee’s best interest, not just give the employee whatever they think they need.

In the end, Gold just triumps over Platinum.