Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Thing About Assumptions


I had a young lady who was having major issues with her boss come see me. Feeling terribly overwhelmed, she had asked for help. As I listened to her go on and on about her boss, I realized the cause of her misery. Her sentences were peppered with - she's supposed to... she should know that... I expect her to... When I couldn't take it anymore I told her to stop. Between her and the boss, they had tons of assumptions going on. Where her boss expected some things from her that she had not explicitly communicated, she expected some things from her boss and felt used because those expectations were not met. When I asked if they had ever had a conversation about her concerns which had plagued her for over six months, she said no. That revelation didn't come as a surprise. It's just sad that she had borne such heartache for a problem a simple sit-down would have addressed.

When you assume, you 'confer' expectations on the other person; expectations they are not aware of and may or may not have the capacity to meet. Anything not explicitly agreed by the other party cannot be construed as a promise. Except if you are surrounded by people who read minds, you need to verbalize the things you expect, from whom and by when. 

Did you say you will...? When am I to expect...? I'm assuming you are responsible for...? Are you sending the...? At the risk of sounding totally stupid, ask questions just to make sure. When you have done so, ask again. Even with the flimsiest of things, as long expectations are concerned, seek clarity. 

Environments where assumptions are rife are usually toxic environments. Everyone believes someone will get the task done, but then no one does and sadly, someone gets blamed for everyone's careless oversight. 

Assumption makes everyone involved look quite frankly, stupid. It disrupts things, affects relationships and wastes time, especially yours. The job will start when the person responsible for it knows he is responsible, not while that piece of information is still in your head. 

I believe personal effectiveness lies in paying attention to the little things, the obvious things. Knowing never to assume is commonsense 101.

©Naomi Lucas

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