How Making Assumptions About Coworkers Creates Conflict

Avoid conflict at work, by heeding the adage, "Never assume anything to avoid making an @$$ out of yourself." Inaccurately processing the information in your work environment or seeing only what you want to see can lead to incorrect assumptions. Acting on or perpetuating the assumptions by sharing them with others can start and escalate conflict.

Making assumptions in the first place

You and your employees view information and make predictions and assumptions to fit your previous experiences. History, or experience, also give you clues about a situation. Employees make assumptions based on the probability that something that has happened once will happen again, or that something that hasn’t ever happened before won’t ever occur.

Strong emotions can cloud your judgment and cause you to make quick and inaccurate assumptions. In important settings, like a private meeting with your boss, resist instant negative reactions to emotional assumptions you’re making in the moment. Instead, suppress your urge to snap at your boss, and ask questions to clarify what she means by a particular statement.

Coming to selective conclusions

Be aware of how you and your team come to certain conclusions throughout your day, and encourage everyone to hold off making judgments until they can gather more information. Basing assumptions on cherry-picked information is dangerous and is a common contributor to miscommunication, misunderstandings, misinformation, and, further down the line, destructive conflict.

When based on bad information or influenced by negative thoughts and emotions, assumptions can lead you down a false path. It’s very common for employees to assume the worst or select only the information they want to hear and leave out the rest.

Asking rather than assuming

Be especially cautious when making decisions based on information that may actually be an assumption posing as fact. Combat the negative impact of inaccurate assumptions by gathering more information and asking questions. After you check out a situation, decide how you’ll react. Does the new information change anything for you? Maybe it doesn’t and you can proceed as planned. Maybe it does and you can adjust accordingly. Being wrong isn’t the end of the world, and checking out assumptions doesn’t have to be difficult or tedious. Assume the best, use humor when appropriate, and give people the benefit of the doubt.

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