Making assumptions is a part of the human experience––even for business leaders. As managers and executives, you make assumptions about your staff’s motives, thoughts, and expectations daily. Yet, all too often, those assumptions are incorrect and even damaging to relationships and productivity.

Assumptions can produce unnecessary drama, leaving behind a trail of wasted time and energy. Poor communication and misunderstanding at the workplace and can lead to employee dissatisfaction and ultimately increase employee turnover.

Here are a few keys to consider when handling assumptions and avoiding conflict, drama, and frustration on the job.

Ask Clarifying Questions

Asking questions is a great way to seek clarity. Rather than assuming an employee is habitually late because they oversleep, try seeking clarification. It could be that the employee is a single parent, and dropping their child at school makes it impossible to arrive at the office by a certain time.

Practicing active listening is another critical step in avoiding misunderstanding. Try repeating back what you understood that the other person was trying to say. As well, asking clarifying questions facilitates ongoing dialogue, which makes a habit of effective communication.

Respond, Rather than React

Another danger that lurks when responding with misguided assumptions is becoming defensive. Because assumptions can stem from learned behaviors, too many negative past experiences can blur the reality of present situations. When managers act on incorrect assumptions, staff may feel alienated, stunting their creativity and confidence.

Build Your Team With Soft Skills

As a manager, it’s not enough to seek clarity for your own benefit, but it’s also good practice to help ensure that your staff isn’t running ahead with assumptions of their own. Acting on wrong assumptions or jumping to conclusions without having all the facts can distract from overall productivity. When unchecked, negative assumptions can lead to negative thinking, which may spiral a bad mood into anger or depression.

Asking for clarification isn’t a sign of poor intellect. Rather, emotionally intelligent people make mutual understanding a priority. Equipping your staff with training that develops soft skills like problem-solving, teamwork, and interpersonal skills can help avoid a whole host of on-the-job conflicts.

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