You may have heard of the expression, “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” If you haven’t, it's a great way to remember how to spell the word “assume” at least. We make assumptions all the time. And for good reasons, too. But sometimes our assumptions can go very wrong. Here’s an example:
At a previous job, I was responsible for ensuring employees did their job efficiently (I wish that was easier than it sounds). As part of their duties, employees needed to complete reports regularly for various incidents. On average, there could be anywhere between 10 to 25 reports a month. As part of my job, I had to take those reports and compile them into one large report to send back to the company at the end of each month. Now I assumed that most people knew how to complete the reports and I would just have to review and compile the reports. That was a very wrong assumption. Most of the reports were incomplete and I had to go back and correct or complete each report. By the time I was able to gather all the necessary information, complete all of the reports, and submit my summary report, it was considered way overdue.
But the story doesn’t stop there. After explaining to my supervisor what happened, I assumed they would understand and be accepting of the situation. Wrong again. Instead, I received a write-up for turning in the report late and for not supervising my unit correctly. Assumptions definitely got me into some hot water.
Now, this isn’t a post about how I got screwed over. There is a lesson here. Yes, assumptions can end up leaving you scratching your head, wondering why you ever thought of such a thing. BUT, they also can teach you valuable lessons. In my example, I learned that I needed to make sure each employee understood what was required of them and that I needed to review their work regularly.
Whether it’s personally or professionally, we will make assumptions about various things — that is just human nature. A good tip is to try and think about all possible assumptions that can be made about a situation, good and bad. Think through each assumption and create a backup plan in case something falls through. And most importantly, be willing to learn from the mistakes you make so you can be better prepared next time.