Chamber News

On the Positive Side/Why Assuming Good Intentions is Important | Columbus Chamber Connection | April 2024

April 18th, 2024

Working alongside others, we are destined to have moments when things go awry and we are left grappling with the aftermath. Whether a defective product or a poor customer review, we have all experienced those “oh no” moments produced by an error.  At our lowest, in moments of self-preservation, we sometimes assume the worst about others and absolve ourselves of any responsibility.

In fact, in extreme cases, we create narratives that the “other person” makes too many mistakes…is always sloppy…unreliable. We justify how it is their fault and they obviously don’t care enough to do things correctly.

The overwhelming number of employees want to do well and to achieve success on the job. It is rare that an individual purposely screws up. When we assume that a coworker has bad intentions, we are missing an opportunity. When it becomes easier to shift the blame to someone else, rather than do the hard work to identify the root cause of the issue, we lose the ability to get better together.

How assuming negative intent can impact your team:

  • Negative assumptions about a teammate can take the focus off the “why” we are here. While we are focusing on trying to figure out why others behave the way they do and/or defend ourselves, we lose sight of the organization’s mission.
  • We avoid contact with the co-worker we blame for the mistake. When we do not extend grace to that individual, we tend to spend time building our case among allies, rather than going to the person directly.
  • Our assumptions may cause teammates to “play it safe” out of fear of making an error that will only draw more attention and scrutiny. Attacking a person’s character and questioning their intentions eventually drives people to hunker down or possibly leave the organization.
  • Collaboration and team integrity suffer when a “gotcha’” culture exists. We divide into tribes and lose the ability to work across departments and trust and confidence in each other erodes, making everyone less productive and at times painful.

Kelly Fuller 
Senior Vice President of Columbus Chamber Foundation