We often end up making judgements about a coworker. Especially when they join the team. But after working with them we realize the newest team member might not be exactly as we perceived him or her on the first sight. I think it is critical to understand a team member’s strength and weaknesses to build a better working relationship. Although we start with a certain set of expectations but it should evolve with time as we know the person better. And I am aware of the fact that I could be wrong when I make such attributions, the person can prove to be better or worse. So it is essential to have an open mind and not to be egotistical, as Alexia LaFata has said “To be open-minded means to remove your personal biases and prejudices from any situation and completely immerse yourself in another experience.”
When My Own Expectations Influenced Attributions about another Person
I considered many instances and decided to present the one that changed my perception in most profound manner. I work in a team environment and the team size and members vary project to project. I would like to share my experience with a team member from my past project. This specific team member, whom I met over lunch at work. I had known him for a while before he joined my team for a project.
What type of expectations did you have and what type of attributions did you end up making?
When I got to know about my soon to be team mate, he was working in another project. And I saw him working really hard on his project. I got to know his academic background and I was impressed, he was pretty good and had impressive grades in university. Actually he was a University topper. In my mind I kind of concluded he was smart and would be super capable resource.
The project was pretty tough, with a tough client, we were working on a difficult application under tight schedule. And the team was fairly new. So we needed strong leads. Leads with knowledge of work, who would be hands on and could train other team members. And we had to work long days.
I expected him to be highly intelligent and diligent in his work. As a lead (that was his role in my project) among all the expectations I expected him to review other team member’s deliverables before sending it to Customer. I was confident that he was capable enough to handle everything and like I mentioned, his academic records and what I observed that he was working hard on previous project, made me attribute these. And a smart person who is hard worker can be a great asset in one team. But here the point to be noted is – he was playing a team lead role, which required knowing the work and essentially reviewing team members work, reporting etc.
And of course there were project specific needs, such as working long hours. Training team members as needed and handling tough project conditions given the fact that we were not working for a happy client.
In hindsight, how accurate do you think that these attributions were?
I was partially accurate, I really enjoyed working with him. As I expected him to be smart, he was smart and he understood situation or a problem as expected. But where I was wrong was I expected him to be great at being team lead too. His IQ did not make him diligent enough. The reason I say that, in the initial phase of project he sent out some data / report to customer that was absolutely wrong. I found out about it when I was reviewing and as you can imagine it was already late. In case it is not obvious, it was my mistake to attribute him to be diligent and having confidence on him for being thorough and diligent with his work. I did not work with him before or I did not verify or review his work before. So of course my judgement was wrong. As Jeff Haden mentioned “Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders, and great followers”. He and I both made mistakes, and I learnt from mistake quickly, as my manager suggested that I review everything before the deliverable goes to customer. And I started doing that. I used to find issue in reporting every day. To be honest I was disappointed with him and myself. Because I was wrong to think he would be a great leader, and he was not quite there yet.
Although I must mention that he was a hard worker and worked really long hours most of the days, and handled the client pretty good. Another area he faced challenge was training and grooming the rookie teammates. I am pretty sure it was not easy to do, but then it was one of the expectation that he would handle that. It wasn’t something I could have a guess, although we got some experienced resources to handle the situation later.
But like I mentioned before, it was a great learning experience for me. And I do this till date, I try to be through with my review. I have understood or rather learned that any resource who was great with studies may not perform same under pressure. And my preconceived notions cannot be an excuse for poor quality of deliverable. I try to not form any judgment or attribute for any resource at the beginning of the project. Having open mind gives me a better chance to really verify before I attribute. I am probably an incremental theorist. As I believe people might behave differently under different circumstances and personalities do change based on situation or experiences one goes through.
LaFata, A. (2014, January). The Most Important Quality You Will Ever Have In Your Life Is Being Open-Minded
. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/alexia-lafata/2014/01/the-most-important-quality-you-will-ever-have-in-your-life-is-being-open-minded/