Should we treat people as adults as work? For people that act like adults, it’s foolish to treat them otherwise; however, for the few that don’t act like adults, it’s equally foolish to treat them as if they were. I’ve found that true adults never raise the issue of being treated like adults for good reason – they don’t have to. It’s only those that choose to not behave as adults that scream the loudest about not being treated like an adult.
Adult behavior is not a self-fulfilling prophesy, such that if we just treated everyone as an adult, everyone would act like one. If you believe that, then you have to believe there is a way you can make the true adults that work for you consistently behave like children. That’s silly.
Here is my list of five things that I think are the hallmark of adult behavior at work:
1. Adults show everyone unconditional respect. Adults understand that respect can only be earned through the treatment of others. Respect is a gift we give ourselves by the way we treat others. The idea of being entitled to respect is foreign to the mind of an adult.
2. Adults understand that all worthy rewards involve personal and shared sacrifice. Adults count the cost of the goals they value. They don’t pretend that the sacrifices are not painful, but they bear the necessary sacrifices with integrity.
3. Adults understand that freedom of choice is not void of responsibility for consequence. Adults anticipate measured consequences when their personal choices encroach upon the reasonable rights of others at work.
4. Adults set standards for personal behavior far above any guidelines, rules, or policies provided by the organization. By doing so, they free themselves from the system of external rewards and sanctions.
I would suggest to you that if you spend any time at work thinking that you are not being treated as an adult, you are probably not acting like one.
Performance behaviors are not the same as adult behaviors. Not all adults deliver exemplary performance, and not all of your best performers also behave like adults. If you are hiring and promoting people that don’t have a proven track record of adult behavior at work, then you are doing yourself and the rest of your employees a tremendous disservice.