Assume the Worst – but never confront it!

ArLyne Diamond's Profile

Have you ever noticed that when someone says something good about a co-worker, it tends to end at that person.  BUT, if someone says something bad about a co-worker, it gets repeated, exaggerated – and can and often does destroy another person’s reputation.

I’m aware of a case of a woman being accused of not paying her share of the coffee and donuts money at the office.  She was vilified for it – yet not one person went to her first and asked her for her view of the situation.

This group of people worked together in an area far away from the company’s  cafeteria.  Some years ago they decided to provide themselves coffee, bagels, donuts, etc.  Each of them was supposed to chip in $5.00 a week – or $20.00 a month to replenish the supplies.  There was a jar on the counter next to the coffee pot and people put their money in it on their own schedules.  In other words, this was the “trust” method.

There were a dozen people involved in this group.  Most paid monthly – the day after payday.  There should have been $240.00 in the jar each month.  Yet, consistently some money was missing. 

No one knows why everyone assumed it was Colleen who failed to pay her fair share.  But once the rumor started Colleen was shunned.   She didn’t know why because not one of the other team members asked her about it.  They just cut her out of the invitations for lunch and any other semi-social activity.  It affected their working relationship as well. 

Whereas before this assumption, the team members shared ideas, helped each other and got the job done effectively, now they ignored anything Colleen had to say and when sharing information spent as little time as possible sharing with her.

Work suffered.  HR was ready to fire Colleen – because her work was the one suffering the most.  She knew her relationship with others had changed – but didn’t know why.

Fear of confrontation – of asking – of finding out what the truth really was – caused so much friction, loss of friendship and team work – and badly affected the work this team was supposed to do.

Colleen’s job was saved by a supervisor in another department who knew her well and knew she was being treated unfairly.  This man, we’ll call him Carl decided to do an independent investigation which included talking to each member of the team separately and privately.

What he learned:  Colleen paid her share monthly.  But, Joe, the newest of the team had never been told he was supposed to chip in and so he never had.  Joe, not Colleen was the one not paying his fair share.

All you have to do is not assume – remember to assume is to make an ass out of you and me.  ASK – don’t be afraid of a polite confrontation.

Learn much, much more in ArLyne's courses on Illumeo.

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ArLyne Diamond is the President of Diamond Associates and is an internationally recognized author and consultant who teaches MBA university courses in Business, Organizational Development, Quality, Change Management, Persuasion/Negotiation, Marketing and Leadership.