In a world crowded with so many moral and religious philosophies, one principle rises to the top as the most consistent, prevalent and universal of them all: The Golden Rule. The Golden Rule simply states, “You must treat others in the same way that you would want to be treated in the same situation.” In the workplace, the Golden Rule means that you would not take advantage of someone or lie to get ahead because you would not want others doing that to you. You treat people honestly and fairly in your work because you want to be treated in the same way. There are all kinds of behaviors that you may be willing to dish out to others but not take. It doesn’t mean that you’re to be a doormat but that you are to be considerate, thoughtful, and fair in how you treat others.
The Golden Rule is one of the most concise and general principles of ethics you can find in business or elsewhere. It is ideal for the business setting where hectic schedules, stress, and job pressures make ethical dilemmas difficult to sort out. With your livelihood at stake, you don’t want your ethical considerations to be just an afterthought but your principle standard of doing business. The beauty of the Golden Rule is that it’s so incredibly simple yet profound. Making those few words your motto can literally change the way you do business.
At its core, the Golden Rule is a consistency principle. It helps you stay on track. It doesn’t replace your own moral ethical standards or norms but gives you something stable and reliable that you can really sink your teeth into. Our world needs a common standard like the Golden Rule to keep us unified as we move into a more global marketplace. It speaks to everyone despite his or her culture or notion of morality. Only a powerful yet flexible principle such as the Golden Rule can serve as a moral steppingstone for anyone toward good ethics.
To apply the Golden Rule, you have to imagine yourself in the exact place of another person who is on the receiving end of an action. It requires you to pause, however briefly, in your busy work to imagine yourself vividly and accurately, in the other person’s place.
What the Golden Rule implies is that each individual has worth and value. That is, the person on the other side is just as worthy of justice as you are. When you imagine yourself in the shoes of that other person, he or she must have the same level of humanity, dignity, and sense of fairness as you would want. In this way, the Golden Rule transcends divisions of class, status, or race. This is what makes the Golden Rule such a powerful, universal principle.
But, you can’t manipulate the Golden Rule into defending your own immoral conduct. The basic requirement to make the Golden Rule work is a fundamental level of sincerity. If you can’t honestly and consistently apply it to the people around you (no matter who they are or what the situation) then it won’t work. Someone who behaves ethically only part of the time is not really an ethical person at all. The Golden Rule has to be taken at face value. It cannot be twisted or manipulated to mean anything other than what it says.
The struggle in applying the Golden Rule in your workplace is the same as applying any other personal improvement goal to your life. It sounds good on paper but quickly dissolves when the heat is turned up. Herein lies the strength in having something simple and flexible as the Golden Rule. It applies to any professional situation and requires little mental or emotional energy to implement. At first, you may have to consciously and intentionally imagine yourself in the shoes of the other person. But eventually, if you practice it enough, putting yourself in the place of others will become an unconscious reflex.
By practicing the Golden Rule you open yourself up to a process of change. The mere act of thinking about how your actions affect others changes your life. It’s like waking up and seeing the world in a whole new way – through the eyes of another. It’s a way of letting go of self and allowing a gradual transformation to change your character from the inside out.