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8 Reasons You Should Never Guess At Work

8 Reasons You Should Never Guess At Work

“When you assume you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” – The Odd Couple

We use assumptions all the time in our daily lives and they can be really useful. An assumption or guess when driving keeps us safe and alert. We can make useful assumptions about how people will behave and they can also help us solve problems. You can safely assume that the sun will rise tomorrow and that your kids are going to leave for school at the same time as yesterday.

But there are many cases where guessing at work can lead to misunderstandings and harm communication. Making assumptions is just guessing and often leads to bad decisions, errors and poor staff relations. Try real communication instead and become much more confident. Here are 8 reasons why you should never guess at work.

1. You think you know best.

You may decide that there are certain changes to be made in the office. But have you checked with the people this will affect? If you just guess that these changes are to everyone’s benefit, then you may be sadly wrong. One of the consequences is that this will cause upset and resentment. There may be big changes ahead such as downsizing, reorganization, new IT systems or just simply changing office layout. You assume that these changes are necessary and for everyone’s benefit. If, on the other hand, you decide to consult with your colleagues and ask for their feedback and opinions before making any decision, you will be on much safer ground.

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2. Your assumptions are hindering progress.

You just assume that things are not going to change and you are really cynical. You know the joke about the cynic who voted against starting a Pessimist’s Club because s/he thought it would not work! Cynics are the ones who have really high expectations but will never put in the basic hard work to get anywhere near these goals. These negative assumptions are contagious.

A much better approach is to reflect on what your responsibilities are and to forget about your rights. You should be the catalyst for change and that means taking a much more positive and proactive approach instead of moaning all the time. Thinking and acting on creating a much better work environment is the way forward.

3. You make the wrong conclusions.

If you are under pressure, you may be tempted to take a few short cuts, instead of thinking things through. You may also cut corners in not checking last year’s sales trends thoroughly. Accountants sometimes fail to check figures properly and auditors are likely to find out. You make a few guesses along the way leading to a few wrong conclusions but the job is done and you have met the deadline. The only way to prevent errors which will come back to haunt you is to do all the calculations properly, investigate the facts thoroughly and keep any guesses you might have to make to an absolute minimum.

4. You pay far too much attention to office gossip.

You know the scene. There are emails flying around about which department is going to be cut and how many job losses these may involve. This is how rumours and office gossip start. If you analyze it, you realize that there are 10% of facts coupled with 90% guesswork. Another example is where one insignificant fact is linked to a management decision about firing a person. Maybe the person who was fired overrode the cash register without the supervisor being present. People wrongly assume that the employee was fired for theft! The consequences are that suspicion and time wasting reach unacceptable levels and there is very poor morale in your office.

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If you are a team leader or manager, the best way to avoid all this unproductive activity is to make sure all staff are as fully informed as possible about what is happening. Be upfront about problems and practise an open and fair policy for promotion.

5. You are wrong about your colleague’s intentions.

You may wrongly interpret a colleague’s request to attend a conference instead of her. You start guessing. You are suspicious that she is setting you up for failure and you begin to mull over what may be behind this ploy. In this case, you have made a false assumption about what her real intentions are and this can damage relationships in the office.

It would be much better to ask her why she does not want to attend and what her fears are. She tells you that she is not confident about speaking in public.She feels that you are a better choice and that this is a great opportunity for you. Once this is clear, you will know for sure what she wants to do and why. It is always better to diplomatically ask about the reasons for certain behavior. We will never know the truth unless we ask.

6. You are not a great listener.

There are several consequences here. As you listen and tap and slide your smartphone screen, you start making a few guesses about the other person is trying to tell you. Not hearing a person out or giving them your full attention is a recipe for poor guesswork. Interrupting and dismissing the idea without full discussion is even worse. The solution is to ask probing questions such as why they think an idea might work. This will immediately prevent you from guessing. All too often, we do not ask enough questions and the “I just assumed” tactic can leave a lot of fallout which may be difficult to fix.

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7. You neglect to find out essential information.

Let’s imagine this scenario. You are at a networking event and you are about to approach a prospective client. Unfortunately, he mutters something and leaves abruptly. Now, without finding out by asking any questions in a follow up, you begin to assume that he is not interested in your proposal or that you have done something to offend him. When you do ask, you find that he had to leave because of an urgent message from his office. But asking questions is invaluable when you have to find out if your business partner is happy with how you work together or whether a colleague is still on track for introducing you to a new contact. Failing to find out just feeds your assumptions and wild guessing.

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” – Henry Winkler

8. You fall into the trap of stereotyping too much.

If you knew my age, you would probably stop reading this article! Bill Gates is not exactly in the prime of his youth either. Seriously, we make all sorts of assumptions and guesses about people as soon as we meet them. We have categorized people into neat little compartments. So, men are better technicians, women are great cooks, seniors are slow and distracted, and certain minorities are not so well educated.

These assumptions when made with regard to individuals are dangerous and can be harmful. We need to get the facts and accurate information about any person before making an evaluation and later, a decision. This is of enormous importance when interviewing candidates for jobs.

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“Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With this just one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz

Featured photo credit: Internal communication panel/Cait Barron via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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