Want to be treated well? You have more control than you may think. Decide how you want to be treated and set the expectation.

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Failure to plan on your part doesn’t create a crisis on my part.” Whoever thought up that slogan knew a great deal about the concept of deciding how you’ll be treated.

Do people wait until the last minute and then dump an assignment on you? Never mind you already had plenty to do. They want you to set that aside and handle their priority. So you drop what you’re doing and put them at the head of the line.

Guess what? You’ve just taught them that’s how they can treat you. Expect more of the same. And each time you agree to the inconsiderate request makes it harder to say “no” the next time. You wind up burning the midnight oil to handle your previous responsibilities.

What do you do next time?

How are you going to handle that situation when it rolls around again? It’s not an answer I can give. What’s important is you’ve thought it through and you are ready. It’s not that you even have to say “no.” You just don’t have to give an automatic “yes.”

Explain what’s already ahead of it in line. If it’s the boss making the request, ask which items need to be put on the back burner while you handle the new request. People aren’t mind readers. They don’t know what’s on your plate unless you tell them.

A lesson learned early

I often speak of my first principal, Harry Anderson, and the many lessons he taught. In one memorable faculty meeting, he read aloud a note a parent had written on their child’s progress report. It seemed the parent was expecting to be informed immediately of any poor test grade. With a teaching load of 120 students every day, the expectation was unrealistic.

Anderson’s point was simple. If a parent asks you to do something, and you agree to it, then do it. But, he added, you don’t have to agree to everything. He was helping each of us decide how we would be treated.

People do what’s easy

It’s just human nature to do the easy thing. The trick is to make the right thing the easiest thing. It works with students. It works with adults.

You’ve asked co-workers to submit certain information via email. One person, however, continues to interrupt you in the middle of work to deliver his information verbally. It’s not because the matter requires dialogue. It’s just easier for him to talk than to write a coherent email.

He stands at the doorway and rattles off the information. You stop what you’re doing, grab a notepad, and become the stenographer. If you let it happen, you’ve taught that co-worker what he did works. Expect more of the same.

“After all,” the inconsiderate co-worker thinks, “why should I go to the trouble to compose an email when it’s just easier to walk into his office and talk?”

Make the right thing the easiest thing. Remind him of the procedure and stand firm. The inconsiderate co-worker learns the easiest thing is to simply follow simple instructions.

We’re all teachers

Sure, people should think about our situation and how their actions impact us. And many of us are blessed to be surrounded by those kinds of people. But not everyone is that lucky.

When we say someone isn’t treating us right, exactly what does “right” look like? If we don’t know, how do we expect others to know? Make some decisions. Let expectations be known. Structure the environment so the right thing becomes the easiest thing. When it comes to how we’re going to be treated, we’re all teachers.

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