Don’t treat your co workers the way you want to be treated!

Koos Vos
Dec 16, 2021

In my leadership trainings, many managers when they have discovered the importance of being empathetic, come up with this sentence: “At the end you have to treat people the way you’d like to be treated”.

Wrong!! Sorry

This is not being empathetic!

Why not? All your co workers are different, have distinct needs, particular ways of collaborating, and diverse ideas of how to make their decisions. They probably have also other incentives by which they get motivated. Some of them would want to know WHY they should do things in a certain way, others need to know HOW and some people are strongly interested in WHO they are working with to feel motivated and to contribute to their best.

Simply said, you shouldn’t treat other people the way you want to be treated because the other person isn’t you! Different people have different preferences, beliefs, ideas and experiences. They might have different cultural backgrounds and will react to a situation in their particular manner. You might think something is reasonable or fair, but that’s you thinking that, not the other person.

Particularly in international teams it might be a bit narrow-minded to assume that if you treat others the way you’d like to be treated, other team members will like it too. You’re trying to be empathetic in your own mirror image, which is not actually a very good form of empathy. Especially in diverse teams you need cultural intelligence to be able to work on an equal basis and motivate others.

Instead of treating people they way you’d like to be treated, what should you do?

Ask people how they would like to be treated.

The answer is very simple. Ask.

Ask your employees what motivates them, what guidance they prefer or what work environment they’d like to be in. Here are some examples of things you can specifically ask (taken from an article by Clair Lew, 2017):

·       How do you prefer I give you feedback? In-person or in writing?

·       When you are most productive in a day? During the morning or the afternoon? Or even at night?

·       How much social interaction is important to you? Should we plan more team-bonding outings or have more regular company lunches?

·       How often would you like to get together for one-on-ones? Once a week, once a month or once a quarter?

·       How would you like to recognized for your work? Do prefer verbal praise in front of others, or more privately? Are small gifts or tokens of appreciation a good way to signify gratitude?

·       How much direction or context do you like before kicking off a project? Do you need space to gather your thoughts initially, or do you like having a lot of suggestions from me upfront?

Probably you can think of much more questions to ask, to ensure yourself you are doing the right thing.

Don’t just assume their answers are the same as yours. Ask, listen, and then act accordingly.

That’s how your co workers want to be treated!

Koos Vos
The author
Koos Vos

Koos is a strategic consultant focused on experiential learning at the individual, team and organizational levels. Drawing from his career as an actor and acting coach, Koos takes an unconventional approach to his training to develop the TRIP physical coaching model. Outside of Yellow, Koos is an associate professor at both EADA and IESE Business Schools in Barcelona.

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