Making assumptions about anything and anyone

Making assumptions in business can have drastic effects. Take the job interview situation as an example – so many assumptions are made as a result of a very brief interaction.

Some interviewers go even further and say they ‘knew’ as soon as the candidate walked in that they were right or wrong for the job. These assumptions can have long, far-reaching effects so it is extremely important to make sure we are making sensible assumptions.

Making assumptions is the easiest thing to do

Our minds like to find shortcuts – we prefer to avoid indecision – so it’s easy to make a quick judgment which is often based on assumptions. We go into ‘automatic mode’ with many daily tasks – even driving. We are hardwired to look for shortcuts to reduce effort. We make thinking shortcuts in which we reach a broad range of conclusions from very little information.

Even though it’s natural, we have to overcome it

Assumptions are something we have to be a lot more mindful of because they can lead to such drastic errors of judgement. Working at becoming aware of these assumptions about people will open your eyes to new opportunities and also prevent some of those problems that can creep up.

There are a lot of assumptions around gender. Women are often assumed to be adept at multi-tasking, whilst men less so – but the assumption should never be made based on gender. Everyone is different. Men are often assumed to be more technically-minded and less emotionally intelligent. It is dangerous to make this assumption at any time.

When something goes wrong, people like to make judgements and assumptions about who is to blame, whose fault it is – but that is not the kind of culture that helps grow continuous improvement and innovation.

Test your assumptions

We should all be more mindful of our assumptions at work, and their wider-reaching implications. We cannot assume that qualifications makes one person better at a task than another. Experience should be tested.

An unchallenged assumption often becomes a ‘fact’, so to prevent making some horrendously uninformed decisions it’s worth focusing on whether or not your assumptions and those of your colleagues are true. There are countless hiring decisions that are made on the basis of quick-fire assumptions that turn out to be false. Interviewing is often a very different skill to delivering on the job, so look deeper to find out if these assumptions are serving you well.

Some very serious faulty judgements are being made all around us all of the time. Think about the next time you make an assumption and look for facts to back up the judgement. Ask more questions. Be someone who is knowledgeable before being someone who is known for jumping to embarrassing conclusions. If someone is claiming something based on an assumption, then seek facts. Be someone who cares about truth and integrity.

Eve Ash, psychologist and CEO of Seven Dimensions, has produced over 500 business films, including some hilarious comedy films (www.7d-tv.com) and is a widely acclaimed public speaker (www.eveash.com).

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