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If you spend any time around people, you’ll quickly see that while we tend to attribute our own problems to outside events, we’re happy to blame other people for similar issues.
This attribution bias, or fundamental attribution error, causes us to over-emphasize internal motivations to explain someone’s behaviour while under-emphasizing the situation factors.
We assume that someone’s actions tell us what “kind” of person they are, as opposed to considering the environmental factors that may have influenced their behaviour.
Most of us are prone to attribution error as it’s a mental shortcut that keeps us from having to think too hard. It’s much simpler to blame someone’s personality than take into account all of the situational factors that may be affecting them.
We also like predictability in dealing with other people. We want to know who we can trust and who we can’t. Internal traits are relatively stable. External events are changing all the time. Attributing someone’s behavior to their personality lets us categorize that person for future events.
One of the first lessons a new manager learns is that people rarely do what you ask them to do. The second lesson is that the fault almost always lies with the manager. Ninety percent of poor behaviours tend to be a result of miscommunication.
Managers, especially newer managers, struggle to set clear expectations. They’re unpracticed in giving clear, actionable feedback. And they rarely give their team definitive priorities.
New managers can go through a quick checklist and look at four potential causes whenever someone fails to live up to their expectations:
Hanlan’s Razor states, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
It’s a good maxim to remember when we start thinking someone’s a jerk for making our lives difficult. But it’s just as important to remember that simply because someone does something stupid, doesn’t mean that they are stupid.
Most workplaces are no stranger to incompetence. Yet they don’t hire incompetent people. And they don’t train people to be incompetent. Nevertheless, you don’t need to look hard to find examples of dumb choices and ill-advised actions.
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