‘The Golden Rule’ as applied in the workplace

The Golden Rule in its simplest form is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

This oft quoted biblical passage, in modern terms, is “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself”.

The expression itself is found in many different religions, not just Christianity.  Various forms of the Golden Rule appear in many religious books from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, Hinduism and Buddhism, amongst others.  This is possibly the one thing that religion agrees upon, even if those practising or following those religions don’t always practise it.


In the context of how we treat others, it is useful to remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi – “Be the change you want to see in the world” or, in other words, be the change you wish to see in your workplace.

Workplaces can be places of conflict and the conflict is usually over the smallest of things, from different ways of handling issues, to people leaving dirty cups in the sink, not wiping down benches, or just being generally thoughtless.

For supervisors, the maxim needs to be taken one step further in terms of how they supervise their staff.  If supervisors were to recall how they were treated when they were junior employees learning the ropes, and recall what they liked about their great supervisors and what they disliked about those who could have done better, they would treat all their staff with respect, even those who are not performing.

So here is a handy checklist on how to apply the Golden Rule in the workplace.

How I like to be treated

How I will treat others

I like to be given feedback in a constructive way I will give feedback in a kind and constructive way
I like people to ask me if I need anything from the stationery room When I go to the stationery room, I’m going to ask my colleagues if they need anything
I like people to offer to make me a cup of tea or coffee When I’m going to make a cup of tea or coffee I’m going to ask someone else if they would like one
I like it when other people answer my phone when I’m not at my desk I’m going to make sure that if I hear a phone ringing I’ll answer it and pass on a message
I like people to say good morning to me and make eye contact when they come in I’m going to make sure I say good morning to my work colleagues and make eye contact with them
I like people to take an interest in me and my work I’m going to treat my colleagues as I would a friend and take an interest in what’s going on in their life
I like to understand what’s happening in the business I’m going to make sure I communicate the big picture to staff
I like people to form an opinion on me based on their experience with me I won’t base my opinions on people by the gossip of others
I don’t like people gossiping about me I won’t gossip about other people
I like receiving a ‘thank you’ when I do something for someone I am going to make sure I say ‘thank you’ more often
I like people to notice if I am overwhelmed I am going to make sure I pay attention to others around me and offer to help if they need it

When you look at it in simple terms like this it’s not that hard to apply the Golden Rule in the workplace. Kindness is contagious.

This applies to leaders as much as to staff as well;  in fact probably more so.  In the words of Richard Branson:

“There’s no magic formula for great company culture.  The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated”.