Managing Employees

Employee Motivation: Why the Golden Rule Doesn’t Always Work

March 20, 2012

The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is certainly an admirable way to go through life. However it may not be the best way to motivate your employees. The fact is, what makes us uniquely “us” is encoded in our DNA, and the way you like being treated may be very different for those who work for you. 

As a manager you may be good at dealing with a lot of issues at once, troubleshooting problems and focusing on the big picture. You probably work best when given an assignment and then left alone to come up with the best way forward, rather than being micro-managed. If you see a problem, you’re good at solving it and moving on. You don’t expect or want anyone to hold your hand.

On the other hand, your CNC machine operator, Joe, does things strictly by the book, one step at a time, and takes pride in his work. To Joe, being right is critical and making a mistake is almost unforgivable, so he is very, very careful in everything he does. If he comes up against a problem he’ll run to you for help, so he won’t be held responsible for making the wrong decision.

If you adhere to the “golden rule” when you deal with Joe, it may not work out well. For example, if you give Joe a task and don’t explain it to him step-by-step, he’s going to be very concerned, because he needs the certainty of knowing exactly what he should do. You, on the other hand, are fine with being given the goal and some basic instruction.

What this means is that, to get the most out of employees, you must understand their personalities so you can treat them as they wish to be treated, which is not necessarily the same way you would want someone to treat you.

You may need to invest some time in getting to know what makes your people tick, but the reward will be increased productivity and better overall employee morale.