Jumping to Conclusions and other Workplace Sports
I see it all the time. Managers think they have all the information. Employees think they have all the information. Then both parties jump to the worst case conclusions in situations. This behavior on all sides is so harmful in the workplace.
The reality? No one ever has all the information.
Jumping to conclusions especially in HR-related workplace situations is extremely risky. I try and counsel my clients and educate them about the dangers of doing this. I typically see three behaviors that happen when managers or employees jump to conclusions:
Every party assumes that others are negatively behaving or performing in a certain way or have bad intentions. This by definition assumes what others are thinking without having any facts. Do not assume you know WHY someone is behaving or performing at their job in a certain way until you have the facts.
"My boss didn't get back to me quickly, I must be in trouble"
"The employee called in sick today, they must be avoiding that deadline"
"I know that employee (or Manager) doesn't like me because they aren't friendly towards me"
"The employee didn't do the work exactly as I asked so they must be trying to defy me"
When I see managers or employees do this, they are predicting a negative future outcome that has not yet happened or already deciding that situations will turn out terribly before the situation has even occurred. When this happens, people feel defeated and simply feel like there is no point in trying to change behaviors or performance. For obvious reasons, this has a harmful impact on a workplace and makes managing employee situations for HR professionals extremely challenging.
"This employee was in trouble before, so I know they are guilty this time"
"I am never going to get that promotion because the hiring manager criticized my last project".
"If I confront my team member, they are never going to want to work with me again".
"I know if I let the new hire meet with clients on their own they will mess it up"
So many people put labels or stereotypes on people or situations in the workplace. When this occurs, it is so detrimental to trying to sort out a workplace situation. Drawing broad conclusions based on a broad generalizations of a group of people can cause great harm on many levels.
"That department is the rebellious department"
"That manager is just lazy"
"Joe is just a low performer"
"That employee falls into the Gen X demographic"
How to Stop Jumping to Conclusions at Work
While jumping to conclusions is an extremely common workplace behavior at all levels, there are things that you can do to stop engaging in this type of thinking as often. Steps you can take that may help:
Check your facts: Gather as much information as you can before you make a judgment or decision.
Challenge your 'normal' thinking: If you find yourself projecting conclusions before they happen, actively challenge your conclusions. Ask yourself if there another explanation that would also make sense?
Ask questions: Ask. Just ask the person directly if possible. So many times I will advise a client and ask them: "did you talk to the person directly"? And so many times they will say no. This can eliminate so much confusion and also help to get to the facts.
Take the other perspective: Think about the situation from the point of view of the other parties involved. How might the other person be processing what is happening?
Sleep on it: There is nothing like a good night's sleep to gain perspective. You will never regret giving yourself some space and time before you act. Patience is a hard virtue, but so important in these situations.
Seek input from an HR professional: When in doubt if you are the person who is jumping to broad conclusions about your workplace situations, it is always best to seek an outsider's perspective. An objective HR professional can help you sort out the facts, stick to them and help guide you to the most positive outcome for the situation.
Summing it up
Jumping to conclusions is a common occurrence at work and happens to the best of us. Solid and healthy work relationships depend on solid facts in all situations. Whether you are the manager or the employee, allowing yourself to take the time and space to not jump to conclusions so quickly will enhance the whole work experience.
Keep an open mind and consider all facts in every situation. You never know how any workplace situation will work out or what others are thinking until you have established the facts, sorted them out and come up with a solution that best resolves situations.
What is most important is not letting the practice of jumping to conclusions take over how we look at things and affect our workplace relationships. Just like how habits are formed, they can be broken as well. If you are unsure if you are jumping to a conclusion, consulting with an HR professional who can help you sort it out and be objective in the process.