“It’s just office politics,” comes the reply. “Susan used to work with the big boss in her previous job, so she’s the favourite.”
“That’s terrible!” says the first colleague in disgust, taking the explanation at face value.
What the first colleague doesn’t know, however, is that Susan has five more years’ direct experience from her previous company, is performing significantly better in her current role than Andrea, and that Andrea herself had told the H.R. director that she was not yet ready for the promotion. But the damage is done. By the time he learns the truth, the first colleague has already spread the misinformation to a half-dozen other people.
You have no doubt witnessed this phenomenon many times in both your personal and professional life. We get outraged over perceived injustices only to find out later, when all of the facts are in, that they weren’t injustices after all. The worst part, of course, is when we make the mistake of passing the one-sided misinformation on to others. That’s when we can really look stupid.
Here is a rule to live by: There is always another side to the story.
This rule is particularly critical when you’re in a decision-making role. Is the customer really a ‘difficult customer,’ or has your team done things that profoundly frustrated him? Is your employee really ‘lazy,’ or has she not been given the right tools to do a job well? Was the decision someone made truly ‘stupid,’ or are there unique circumstances you aren’t aware of?
Even if you’re not in a decision-making role, it’s a good thing to remember. The next time you hear about a seemingly obvious transgression or act of unfairness, make a point to put your outrage in check until you have all the details. Not only will it prevent you from potential embarrassment, it will also position you in the eyes of other people as someone who is deliberative and fair in your words and actions. These are two characteristics that will serve you well in your career and life in general.
“Don’t let your words dig a hole that your wit can’t get you out of” – Shaun Belding – Win at Work
Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group –A Global Customer Service, Leadership & Workplace Performance Company