At sometime during my childhood, I heard the story of the dippers and the fillers. I can’t remember when or where I first heard the story but it is a lesson that has struck with me for many years and has played a major role in how I interact with people on a daily basis.
The story goes like this, each of us carries around an emotional bucket that is constantly being either emptied or filled by the words and actions of others. When the bucket is full, we feel amazing. When the bucket is empty, we feel discouraged and depressed. The paradox is that dipping into other’s buckets, by saying things or doing things that are hurtful, actually decreases the level of our own buckets AND adding to other’s buckets, by saying things or doing things that increase positive emotions, increases our buckets.
Fast forward many years from when I first learned this lesson, I heard it told another way by Josh James, then CEO of Omniture. One of my first interactions with Josh was hearing him tell the company about his ‘No Assole Policy’, which I imagine was borrowed from Robert Sutton’s ‘No Asshole Rule.’ Wherever it came from, the lesson is the same — We likely come across dippers everyday, they just may be easier to recognize as assholes.
When you are managing a team, it is important to understand who the assholes, excuse me, dippers are that impact your team. They could be co-workers, managers, partners, customers, prospects, etc. They come in many forms but they all are capable of doing considerable damage to your organization.
I have witnessed first hand dippers who can transform team morale from an all time high to the depths of despair in a matter of weeks. As a manager, it is your responsibility to teach your team how to properly deal with the dippers. In extreme cases, I recommend firing the dipper, regardless if they are an employee or a client, the emotional damage they inflict is just not worth the long term health of your team.
Most of the time, we have to learn how to properly manage a dipper and in fact, if we are open to it, the dipper can teach us many valuable lessons. The best way to deal with a dipper is to lead by example and not stoop to their level of being an asshole. When you let yourself fall into their game, everyone loses, everyone’s bucket ends up empty sooner rather than later. This is easier said that done and takes much practice but in the end, outside of severing the relationship, is really the only real way to deal with the problem. When you don’t stoop to their level, you actually open yourself up to learn many valuable lessons.
Dippers can teach you how not to act. How not to be a manager. How not to be a co-worker. They can also teach us many lessons about ourselves that we are unable to see. Many times dippers are able to show us some of our hidden weaknesses. Just be careful to limit the amount of time you spend around a dipper learning these lessons.
In the end, each of us have a choice to make, do we want to be a dipper or a filler?
A full bucket gives us a positive outlook and energy to create amazing works of art. Every positive action we take, makes us stronger and more optimistic.
However, an empty bucket not only drains our energy, it also poisons our organization and everyone we come in contact with.
Every moment, we face a choice, we can fill someone’s bucket and create an environment in which great things can be accomplished OR we can dip from the buckets of others, we can be an asshole, creating a toxic environment in which nothing but poison can grow.
Don’t be an asshole.