Reestablishing the Benefit of the Doubt
March 12, 2014Gareth Schweitzer
The phrase ‘benefit of the doubt’ itself implies that you have some cause to question the motives of the offending party in the first place; it speaks to a conscious decision to tip the scales in that person’s favor. So how do we overcome, or put aside, this doubt – and err on the side of an intrinsically positive reaction?
We’ve all been there – situations at work where we’re left out of a meeting, not asked for our opinion, or left in the dark on a subject we believe is not only important to us, but relevant to our jobs. These are very, very difficult situations in which to give the aggrieving party the benefit of the doubt. So we don’t – and instead go home wounded, and even angry.
Why is this? The phrase ‘benefit of the doubt’ itself implies that you have some cause to question the motives of the offending party in the first place; it speaks to a conscious decision to tip the scales in that person’s favor. So how do we overcome, or put aside, this doubt – and err on the side of an intrinsically positive reaction?
1) The uncertainty you feel about those motives likely says a lot about you. in fact, it may in many cases say more about you than it does about the other person. Workplace insecurity can be the product of many things – overly competitive work environments, too much stress, a poor relationship with your boss or colleagues – but understanding that root cause is the only way out. You are the controllable variable is this situation; identify your root cause and work to change it.
2) Embrace being left out. This is incredibly difficult for many of us – Fear of Being Left Out has reached acronym level fame, largely because of social media (seen a story on FOMO, anyone?) But in truth, there are, still, actually things you don’t want to be a part of. Learn to love them as much as you love the things you’re included in. This is part of taking on a leadership role in a business. Being indispensable at all times is NOT a marker that you’re doing your job well. In fact, quite the opposite; just ask your boss and they’ll tell you the same.
3) Don’t pass judgment on others on your best 20% of days, or your worst 20%. Passing judgment is usually a bad idea. But we do often need to form opinions about other people; we do so to create order and structure for our feelings and emotions. But don’t do it on days when you’re at your peak, or down in the dumps. Invariably your lens will be blurry. Our worst days especially enhance negative, unwarranted reactions towards colleagues.
4) Remember: ALL relationships are personal. This isn’t the same as making all your colleagues your friends. You don’t have to do dinner and a movie each week. But there’s a reason we generally give our close friends the benefit of the doubt. We don’t just trust them – we like them. ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’ is one of the most used, and least useful, work sayings of all time. It’s all personal. When you create reasons to trust your colleagues, your faith in the organization you work for will grow as well.
5) Find, and rely, on a mentor. This is not your boss. Your mentor is someone who can help you make sense of the world around you – primarily at work, but outside of it too. Often times, we can’t disentangle why things happen at work on our own – we need help. That’s where a good mentor steps in.
We know – if it were this easy, you would have done it already. But the truth is, it is easy. Follow five simple rules and you diminish, even incrementally, the doubt and uncertainty you feel in interpreting the actions of others.