Assume good intent

When we start a new job, we start with a blank page, both for us and the company. Over time, we observe good decisions that affect us positively and motivate us to be better. They increase our happiness and strengthen the bond and relationship with the company. On the other hand, there are also decisions that we don’t agree with. We may feel deceived, treated not fair or disappointed how others were treated. Such decisions decrease our happiness and moves the balance of feelings to the negative side.

These feelings, both positive and negative, are accumulating. If we observe more negative situations than positive over time, it can make our work feel unbearable even though it might be a good place for us from a career perspective.

The truth is that in companies with strong values and culture, the decisions are thought well through. Senior leadership spends hours thinking about possible impact. Weighting multiple options. Aligning them with shared values and principles. Getting more context, analyzing it and adjusting the decisions. Still, no matter how much energy they put to reason about the decision, there always will be someone for whom the experience will be negative. This employee can be you or someone close to you.

Assuming good intent can significantly improve your productivity by increasing your happiness at work. When you hear about anything that sounds like a bad decision for you or your friends, take a step back and assume that the decision-maker had good intent and made the best available choice based on the context that you are missing. You can think that you have the same or even better understanding of the situation, but usually you are not right. You didn’t spend hours acquiring this context. You have not discussed the impact of the decision with senior leadership from different departments. You probably didn’t think a lot about the impact on business, rather on your current position.

I don’t mean that you are not allowed to disagree with decisions. You are allowed and you should communicate this transparently to the decision maker. I don’t mean that decision-makers are always right - they are not. I just mean that assuming good intent should help you take a step back from the hard situation, earn time to understand the context and reasoning behind the decision and judge it without initial emotions.

I am sure that assuming good intent may be really hard, especially when you work in one company for a long time and your balance of positive and negative emotions is already filled up significantly. But if you feel that your current place of work is a good career opportunity, I recommend to take some distance and assume good intent. If you feel that there are better career opportunities for you, change your job and assume good intent in a new place.