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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 July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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