Don't Make Assumptions

It was one of four rules to live by that apply to everyday life. It showed up in an "Instragram"-type photo, the type that circulate on social media pages. It caught my attention right away because of a situation that occurred a few days earlier.

We were having breakfast at a local eatery and the order came out all wrong. Since we hate to waste food, we ate it and moved on. Except, I was drawn to the request for feedback so I took management up on the offer. I sent an email explaining what we ordered and what we received, and attached a copy of the receipt that detailed the order. A short time later I received a heartfelt apology with an offer of gift certificates for the next visit.

The same email also contained an inquiry: "Was the cashier who took your order male or female?" Fair enough question I thought, she wants to get to the root of the problem and correct it. However, it was followed by the statement: "(I bet it was a female since she is new.) We'll certainly go over things with her so she does not make the same mistake again."

This was wrong on so many levels. First, the cashier was a male, someone who’s been there for a while. Second, as best we could tell, the order was placed correctly and it was the kitchen staff who got it wrong. One of the items was the breakfast special, an omelet, and the omelet we received did not have the ingredients advertised on the daily menu. Third, the owner, who was not on the premises at the time, had jumped to conclusions and already assigned blame. This was a teachable moment and not necessarily for just the counter and kitchen staff, but for the management staff as well.

Workplace problems occur. Some problems are huge—blatant misbehavior, blatant disregard for policies, practices, etc. People don’t have the skills to perform the role in which they are placed. Some problems are small. People make mistakes. No matter the size or scope of the problem, the problem has to be correctly identified, addressed and solved. To do that, here are some basic guidelines to consider:

· Keep an open mind and remain unbiased
· Get all the facts
· Ask questions that will give you the facts
· Listen to the answers
· Look at any and evidence
· Use good judgment
· Consider all the possibilities
· Don’t make assumptions

In situation presented, someone in management made an assumption and assigned blame without getting all the facts or examining all the evidence presented. You’ve got to get to the root of an issue before you can figure out how to fix it. You’ve got to fix the right problem. I don’t know the root of this problem. There could have been many contributing factors, including the establishment’s internal processes. I certainly hope that management didn’t start talking to this new female employee about the mistake they assumed she made before they had the feedback from me that she was not at fault.
People issues at work is one of the biggest challenges. Don’t avoid them, embrace them with grace and dignity. When we wrote The Big Book of HR we had managers in business of all sizes in mind! It’s challenging, but if you treat people with fairness and respect, they’ll be there for you and for your customers.


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