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Workplace Values: Good Communication, not Bad Assumptions

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

You likely do something very often during the day you may be unaware of. Something that leads to decisions (right, or wrong) or to react a certain way (kind, or unkind). That “something” refers to assumptions. And we all make them.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, assumption is “a belief or feeling that something is true or that something will happen, although there is no proof.” There are three points:

  1. A belief that something is true or will happen.

  2. A feeling that something is true or will happen.

  3. There is no proof.

We often bring our past experiences to our analysis of what is happening in the present. Can you recall situations where:

  • you assumed someone had done something and they had not?

  • you assumed they would do something and they did not?

  • you believed they were thinking of something and they were not?

Looking back, can you determine what that assumption was based on? Was it based on a feeling or belief, or was there some concrete or objective evidence (proof)? Always be mindful that although something may have occurred in the past, it does not mean it is true in the present, in the current situation, and/or for that person.

A hypothesis, on the other hand, is “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” These three points include:

  1. A supposition or proposed explanation (not a belief or feeling such as an assumption)

  2. There is some evidence, even if limited, (there are, at least, some facts)

  3. It is a starting point for further investigation and discussion (not an endpoint like an assumption)

The difference between an assumption and a hypothesis is there is some evidence of what may happen in a hypothesis. It is not just based on a feeling or belief. There may be some overlap in these two definitions as we may expect someone to behave in a certain way because we have often seen them behave that way. There is some limited evidence. However, it is essential to allow the evidence, however, limited, to guide your decision-making and not just go by a feeling or belief. If there is any doubt, then good communication is always the key. In addition, it is also good practice to presume the person is doing the best they can for the right reasons unless proven otherwise. Like the law, someone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The business I own is a Physiotherapy practice. This week, a patient was booked for an acupuncture treatment. The Acupuncturist checked her schedule and saw how long it was reserved for. Before going into the appointment, the patient informed the receptionist that it

needed to be shorter. The receptionist assumed that the patient would tell the Acupuncturist and did not change the time in the schedule. However, the patient did not, and therefore, the Acupuncturist provided the more extended treatment. The receptionist had assumed that as most patients tell the treatment provider if there was a change that this person would as well. However, that assumption did not apply to this situation.

As a clinic owner, I often make assumptions on what I think people may or may not want to do. This may be based on my feelings or belief that they do not want to because they have not expressed an interest. However, I am often pleasantly surprised when I have a conversation with a staff member and see that, in fact, they are interested.

Good communication to discover the truth, instead of making assumptions, is wise whether in business or our personal lives.

Good workplace culture will promote positive assumptions or “assume the good intentions and abilities until proven otherwise.” In other words, be aware that an assumption you make may be based on false information instead of some semblance of truth. We cannot read anyone’s mind, so we should not be assuming their motivations and intent. We need to discuss any concerns with them and allow them to tell us “their truth.” Give your staff person the benefit of the doubt as you speak honestly and kindly with them. The more facts and truth you have, the more likely you will make a wise decision, instead of unwisely depending on “what you think you know.”

This week, take time to be aware of any assumptions you make in your workplace. I would suggest you look for one every day! Be mindful if these assumptions provide a negative outlook to any of your staff members. If so, reflect on if there is any truth in the situation. If you feel they are under-performing, not looking like they are committed or care, then you need to have a conversation about what is going on. Perhaps you can take a damaging assumption to a positive solution which will improve your understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, your company culture, and their job satisfaction. Focus on good communication, not bad assumptions.

May God richly bless you this week!

Bonny, Christian Women at Work

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