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Workplace Wisdom 

Mary Schechter


Has Someone Made An Assumption About You?

Mary Schechter


A True Story

Years ago, a client of mine (let us call him “Jake”) landed his dream job in a high profile advertising agency. As part of his daily duties, he walked from one end of the building to the other and often would see the CEO during his trek. Because the CEO (Let’s call him George) believed in walk-around management and was committed to connecting with his employees, he made a point of acknowledging everyone by their name and it was no exception with my client Jake. So, it became an expected part of the daily ritual to encounter George and to have a friendly exchange with him.

Within a few months, a job opened up that would be a big promotion for Jake. He decided to apply even though he was new to the company and relatively “green”. He passed the first level of interviewing and was scheduled as one of two finalists that would meet with George and the Board. And so, with only a week before the final interview was to occur, he noticed something strange. Unlike the usual friendly hallway exchange that had become expected, George ducked his head and avoided Jake’s salutation. Two days later, Jake noticed that when George saw him walking down the hall, he went back into his office and shut the door

. It was obvious he was avoiding him.

That was it for Jake. He marched into his boss’s office and declared, “I need to cancel my interview for tomorrow, I know they going to hire the other guy.” To which his supervisor replied, “Why Jake, you know you are the best choice and so do they…!” …”Why would you say that?”

Then, with a lump in his throat, he mumbled under his breath, “It’s obvious, George doesn’t want me for this position. Every time I saw him in the hall this week he avoided me. It got so bad he actually turned around and went back in his office today.” The room was stone still and his boss gave up a sad smile filled with recognition. She looked at him with compassion and asked, “I guess you haven’t heard then? George’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia 5 days ago.”

“He has been doing everything he can to just get through the day. Keeping upbeat is probably just too much for him.” Jake sat down hard in his chair, staring blankly out the window. He thought through the events of the week, and felt sick to his stomach. He almost threw a life changing opportunity away because of an assumption; an assumption that he interpreted as rejection.

When we assume we know what someone else is thinking or feeling we short circuit our potential.

The next time you “know” what someone thinks or feels,

try using the most powerful tool you can to get at the information.




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