Assumption (noun): a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof
Every day we make assumptions in life. About someone’s intentions. About what we think people expect. And we’re usually wrong. In the workplace, making assumptions instead of clearly communicating often causes unnecessary strife and resentment among colleagues. The reality is that the disconnect is usually quite minor!
In our many years of working with leadership teams, we have honed in on three main types of leadership behaviors that can help leaders to avoid the damaging impact of assumptions:
- Keep an open mind. Every person brings a unique perspective to a conversation. We often assume the other person looks at a situation the same way as we do. Remember, we all bring our own perspectives (past similar projects, particular ways of working) and experiences (good and bad interactions with coworkers) to the table. Maybe one person has worked on a similar project and has specific ideas about how the process should go. The other person may have had a bad experience using that type of process. Assume nothing and start from a fresh mindset.
- Skip the mind reading. If we think we know what our colleague or boss is going to say, think again. We’re all guilty of ‘assuming’ – “I know she will say this if I say that” or “There’s no point in doing this because he’s going to think that.” Never assume what your colleagues or your boss are thinking. That means, stay away from having private conversations in your mind that decide what’s going to happen before it happens. We recommend stating even the most obvious points so as to eliminate assumptions.
- Spell out expectations. If we assume an employee knows what we expect without ever telling them, we will be disappointed. One of the biggest areas of assumption has to do with a gap in expectations. To avoid disappointment of both sides, it’s best to lay out in specific terms what the tasks, the timeline, and what success looks like. If everyone is on the same page, there’s no need to assume anything!