One of the first conversations we have with many business owners when we start working with them is about not making assumptions. Assumptions are the ultimate purveyor of risk, yet people make assumptions all the time.
Often, we make assumptions out of laziness because we don’t want to take the time to verify information. Other times we make assumptions out of fear. We don’t want to pry regarding a situation and, as a result, we create an even bigger risk for the company.
It all comes down to conversations and procedures really, like many things in business.
Ask the questions
Lots of assumptions get made regarding supervisors and employees in business. An owner will ask for a supervisor to talk to an employee or take care of an issue and then never follow up to be sure it happened. It’s pretty simple to send a follow-up email that says, “Per our conversation…” and make sure there’s a record of the action taken, but it gets overlooked frequently. And that creates risk.
Lots of assumptions get made about employees, and those also create risk. If someone’s limping all of a sudden and nobody asks what happened, you might not find out the injury happened on the job. Then it goes untreated for weeks and becomes a much bigger issue for the employee and a more expensive workers’ compensation claim on your insurance.
Maybe an employee’s job performance and attitude has changed, but nobody asks them what’s going on. Then later things hit a boiling point. That employee quits because they’re being bullied by a coworker, and now they’re taking action against the organization for allowing a hostile work environment.
When supervisors and owners make assumptions about things and don’t ask the questions, it magnifies risk for the company. We assume it’s not within our control or responsibility, but often times it is.
Check and double check
I remember an instance where a supervisor was going into an important meeting and assumed that everything needed for the meeting was in the folder handed to her. The person who handed her the folder said it had all the paperwork and signatures necessary, but it didn’t. And it resulted in about three times the work trying to track down the necessary information. Wasted time resulting from assumptions instead of verification.
We’ve also seen situations where a company was about to terminate someone and said they had documented cause for the termination. But then they pulled the employee’s file and it was basically empty. There was no documentation of the conversations that had taken place with that employee about their performance or the writeups of their policy violations. Nothing. That’s a road that could lead to a wrongful termination suit.
In the end, convenience often wins out. But convenience isn’t a winning strategy.
It’s easy to make assumptions, whether they come from laziness or from fear. But we can’t give in to them, because assumptions are some of the easiest unforced errors for us to fix. They’re also one of the most dangerous. Never assume in business. Always ask the questions and verify the documentation.
Could your supervisors benefit from training about how to reduce risk to themselves and the company through effective management strategies? Contact us today to talk about your training needs and how we might be able to help.