Let’s have a conversation about a hypothetical. I’ll pose a question and using past experience explain my view. Feel free to contribute in the comments if you wish.
I’ve been turning this thought around in my head for a few weeks or longer. It takes different forms but overall the same theme keeps emerging.
What if you’re wrong? Can you imagine how that would change your view on things? What if at the origin you made the wrong assumption? What if one decision changed your entire thinking? What would you do? How would you rectify it?
Here is my example from my life experience. When I was a teenager I got a job working retail. I worked with really good people. The management team treated the “help”, even the teenagers who tended to not last long, as members of the team. We worked together for a common goal. Along the way skills were passed on and when the management team was rewarded for meeting their goals they in turn rewarded the underlings. It was a hugely positive place and definitely was the reason I continued on in the same company after college. I was promoted to a management team in a different store. From the outside it looked the same as where I’d started. The goals and tasks were the same but now I was in a position to motivate the staff as I’d been motivated.
Things went along well for a few months. I worked hard in all aspects of my job. I was able to pull the evening teenage staff together to get things done. The store manager’s manager, someone I knew from my previous store, would ask questions of the manager before passing along a compliment or criticism. Who closed last night? Who set up the sale? Who ordered that aisle? When in each case the answer was given a compliment or criticism then followed. This interaction was common because this guy’s office happened to be in the store.
Over time the manager’s manager stopped asking the manager questions. I’d seen him looking at the schedule. He was getting his own answers without asking the questions. He’d come to me directly and tell me what a good job I’d done. The store never looked better. He told me he appreciated how hard I worked.
Around this same time there was a change in the attitude of the manager. He was cranky, delegating more work to me and the other member of the team. I also heard through the grapevine that the manager wasn’t happy with the team. This situation blew up when the manager took two weeks vacation and then I took two weeks vacation. While I was gone there was a conversation between the manager and the other team member where he tried to convince the team member that I was intentionally making them look bad. That I was getting them in trouble with his manager to improve my position. The team member told me this in front of another employee who ran back to the manager to let him know what I’d been told.
I’d made a big mistake. I’d assumed that being part of a team meant that everyone was working towards the same goal. I assumed we were a team. That everyone would work to benefit everyone. I believed (though I didn’t know the saying then) that team work made the dream work. I learned that not everyone has the best intentions and that even when you are doing something that benefits someone else they don’t necessarily appreciate it and will cut your throat even if it hurts them. Sometimes people only want the win if they scored the goal. I learned that sometimes people are assholes and don’t behave like adults.
Just to finish the story. I made the decision over the last few days of my vacation that I wasn’t going to work in a place with that kind of environment. I shouldn’t be undermined and I sure shouldn’t do a worse job to make others look better. I decided to go to the manager’s manager and give him my notice. I arrived early that morning for my shift and went into his office. I told him that I was giving my two weeks notice and that I didn’t think this job was for me. He wasn’t happy to hear this. He asked some questions and I told him what had happened. He said not to worry. He valued my work and didn’t want to lose me. To come back the next day to talk again. In that 24 hours the manager was transferred and so were the other team member and I. We ended up in vastly different stores. I was sent to a busy mall location that was in need of glue to pull the management team together, my team mate was sent to my original location to learn what it’s like to work where everyone works together and the manager was sent to a small store with a couple of well seasoned middle of the road team members.
I don’t know what happened to any of these people. I left the company a couple years later when I got married and moved across country. I look back on my time working there positively. There were bad things that happened but overall I did my best and really to me that is the most important thing.
I know of other examples in my life where I went into a situation believing a generally agreed upon assumption. Then I learned that no, that isn’t how it actually works but it is what they say. I’m not naive. I know people can be good or evil. I know some people tend to take advantage of others and shift situations to their benefit. For my own mental health I like to believe what people say and I do, until they show me who they are.
So imagine that you’re wrong. You’re wrong based on that first assumption, based on a believed truth that wasn’t. And every decision you made from that position was the wrong one because of that believed truth that actually isn’t true. That’s a big pill to swallow. I suspect a lot of people just can’t swallow that pill no matter how hard they try.