When teams struggle, it’s often a result of relationship problems. And the source of those interpersonal troubles? Faulty assumptions.
Imagine one of your coworkers saying or doing something, and suddenly you are all bent out of shape about it. When asked why you are so mad, you’ll probably describe the incident in great detail. Included in your description will be the other person’s intentions, motivations, attitudes, feelings, or values.
You aren’t mad about what the person did. You’re mad about what the person intended. And here’s the thing. You don’t know what that person was thinking or feeling. Your anger is based on an assumption.
To keep relationships on solid ground, begin by catching yourself and others making assumptions that may not be true.
If a friend comes to you complaining about a co-worker’s lack of effort and says something like, “She knows that I’ll do whatever she doesn’t do. She’s totally taking advantage of me.” You might gently ask the question, “How do you know that to be true?” You might also suggest other possibilities such as:
- Coworker did more than you were personally aware of.
- Coworker was tired and knowingly coasted a bit, but never had a clue how it might affect you or others.
- Coworker wasn’t aware of everything that needed to be done and thought all was right with the world.
Unconfirmed assumptions can unnecessarily tear people apart. Strained relationships will undoubtedly reduce the team’s effectiveness. The secret is as simple as recognizing what you don’t know and confirming before you draw conclusions.