In The Absence Of Information People Will Make It Up

In the absence of information, we make stuff up.  Our brain won’t live with a void, so it fills in the blanks.  When we do this, we believe what we made up to be true.  Because we are wired for survival, most of what we make up is negative.

We see this in the workplace all the time: the closed door meetings, the popular co-worker who was terminated, the new policy change, and the unannounced job posting are all common situations where uninformed employees make up information to fill in the blanks.  Though all of these situations have perfectly reasonable explanations, employees left without clarification will behave skeptically and unproductively.

Most leaders are oblivious to the ramifications of these seemingly routine actions, and when asked about them will openly explain the circumstances.  Unfortunately, leaders have no idea of the disruption caused by these perceived clandestine actions.  Leaders can do the following to minimize these impacts:

1.  Be aware of the actions that can be misinterpreted (remember the things you thought your boss did that made you feel uneasy).

2.  Encourage direct reports to ask for clarifications to the mysteries (easily done through the weekly one-on-one meetings).

3.  Remember the “average” person needs to hear something 7 times to remember it  (imagine the below average person), so determine what message you want heard and clearly state that often.

Empower yourself to appreciate how lack of information can disrupt your team, take measures to lessen the impact, and you’ll experience more success.

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