I started to write this from a leadership perspective, but soon realised that this is a general principle that applies at all levels within an organisation. It’s a principle I’m going to call symmetrical professional behaviour. It works like this… whatever formal or informal contracts you use to interact with other people, it needs to work the other way.
Here are some examples. If you have to raise a ticket to start an interaction with your helpdesk team, the helpdesk team should respect whatever mechanism triggers work into your team when they need your help. There can’t be a bulletproof helpdesk entry point and a flaccid return path. Equally, if you expect to walk into your helpdesk and get help, you can’t tell them that they can’t do the same in return. It’s symmetrical. It’s respectful.
Here’s another example. You really need some artefact from another team, so you walk over to schmooze it a bit. That in-person chaser must be matched by an in-person “thanks for doing that”. It’s symettrical. It’s respectful. You could just email to say thanks… but it was important enough for in-person chaser and it’s going to rub the wrong way on the people who helped you out.
This is the balance that needs to be found in all professional relationships between individuals and teams. If it is asymmetrical, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. In the long-term, that usually means everyone loses.
Invest a few minutes in balancing out your professional behaviour to ensure you have symmetrical relationships with the people and groups of people you engage with on a daily basis.