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Jun 12 2008

Thinking the Best

Jamie Barrows

reaching for the sky

At my current job, I work with a pretty good group of guys. Most of them are easy to get along with, and all of them work pretty hard. One guy in particular is an extremely hard worker. He does his job without being told, and will even go out of his way to find work to do when his normal duties are completed.

You’re probably thinking that this guy sounds like a model employee. Someone who works without supervision. An employee that goes above and beyond what is required. The thing is that he has one big glaring fault. A fault that negates most of the good qualities I mentioned above. He literally can’t work with anyone.

The reason he can’t work with anyone is that he always assumes the worst about his fellow employees. By that, I don’t mean that he thinks all of his fellow employees are evil. What I mean is that whenever something comes up (good or bad), he assumes the worst possible motives of those involved.

So advice or critiques of his work (which is actually pretty good) is taken as a personal attack by the person giving the advice. And praise for his work is taken as an attempt to suck up to him for some future gain. If one of us is falling behind, he automatically assumes that the person falling behind was slacking off and not working. Any mistakes other employees make are taken as evidence that that person is stupid or doesn’t listen to instructions. Even in normal conversation, he assumes attacks on him whenever something is said that offends him.

With an attitude like that, you can understand why he can’t work with anyone. He claims that everyone he has ever worked with has “stabbed him in the back” at some time. If you always assume the worst of everyone around you, then it has to seem that way. You end up angry at everyone around you all the time. Which can’t be fun or even healthy.

The thing is, that most of the time he is completely wrong about people’s motives. But because he always assumes the worst, he always feels let down. Wouldn’t it be better to assume the best of someone? At least until the person has proved you wrong several times.

There are plenty of bad people in the world, who do have bad motives for what they do. But there are plenty of people out there who are just normal and don’t have an ulterior motive. If you just give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes, you will be surprised at how often you are right. And in the end you’ll be a lot happier and have more friends.