When It Comes To Your Career, Is Making Assumptions Good Or Bad?
In the last month, just days apart, I received two e-mails from well-known management advisors I regularly follow. One e-mail was headlined: “Never ASSUME While Selling," the other: “Careful, Making Assumptions Is Costly." One of the articles immediately went to the cliché "Never Assume (ASS-U-ME) because when you do you make an ASS of U and ME." The other chided: “Assumptions. Not very productive, are they? They can lead to negative emotions, relational pain, and strife that never need to happen." Related: How 4 Words Control Your Career Decisions Authors who caution that one should not (or “never") make assumptions always use good examples of incorrect assumptions. What's missed here is that in a very real world where the future is unknown, the need to make assumptions is both important and unavoidable. Several years ago, I drafted a list of the “Ten Dumbest Things Managers Say." It was part of a management training program, maybe an idea for a book. The “assume" cliché was always a candidate for the top three on the list, along with illogical statements like “If he (she) didn't understand what to do, he (she) should have asked." I've always found it easy to refute the “never assume" argument.
- Most of what all of us do every given day is done based on the valid assumption that we'll be alive for another day.
- We plan, exercise, save, and more based on the assumption that we'll be alive – and well – for a future.
- Making assumptions is a necessary part of our daily lives and careers.
- Awareness of the assumptions we make on a daily basis is critical.
- For complex decisions, like a career choice, clarifying assumptions is a critical part of the decision process.
RealityYou will regularly make decisions based on assumptions that are wrong. Hopefully, a much bigger percentage of the decisions you make will be based on correct assumptions. Either way, there's always going to be the risk of an unknown future. Some of the incorrect assumptions will be minor, for example, you'll order something at a restaurant that you'll “assume" you'll enjoy, but it completely fails to meet your expectations." Other assumptions you make will turn out incorrect even if you've done a good job of asking questions and researching information about a company – or a job. From a career perspective, you'll accept a job offer – most likely – based on incomplete information.
- You'll be assuming the company making the offer is a) going to honor that offer when you accept it, b) has accurately described the expectations of the job, and c) is going to be in business for the foreseeable future of your career. Interestingly there are numerous examples of the first two of those assumptions being very, very incorrect.
- You'll report to work today assuming a) that your office heating or air conditioning is working and b) that your co-workers will complete their work responsibly, and so on.