Many organizations today have adopted a notion that employees should assume positive intent when dealing with other teammates and superiors during meetings or while engaging in conversation (both oral and electronic).
I’m a firm believer that yes, it is far more powerful and productive to think positively in life rather than focus on the negative conspiracy theories we often fabricate in our own heads due to a lack of legitimate data.
But at the end of the day, the practice to assume positive intent does in fact have a downside.
In reality, what organizations are doing is minimizing people’s feelings, thus allowing the offender to walk away with no blame or shame for their disrespect. We call that bullying.
We’ve all heard the adage check your emotions at the door when it comes to places of business. But unless you’re staffing your organization with nothing more than computer algorithms and robotics, human beings are going to have emotional responses when interacting with personalities much different than their own.
Is it really fair then to tell people they should always assume positive intent with those differing personalities?
Let me be clear, I’m not saying to be oversensitive at work and assume that every supervisor and co-worker you encounter is out to sabotage you. That is completely not healthy and not recommended.
But this notion to assume positive intent silences those who are being bullied at work. I offer the following information from a Forbes.com article:
“In an October 2019 report by Monster.com, it was discovered that nearly 94% of surveyed employees said they had been bullied in the workplace. That’s a huge increase (19%) in the last eleven years. Over half (51.1%) in the Monster.com survey said they were bullied by a boss or manager. The ways the respondents said they were bullied were aggressive email tones (23.3%), coworkers’ negative gossip (20.2%) and someone yelling at them (17.8%).”
What do you say to these individuals? Do you tell them to leave their emotions at the door and find ways to assume positive intent in their interactions?
Minimizing a person’s feelings is what dominant personalities, bullying personalities, count on and sadly many organizations are affording them anonymity.
As I said above, the power of positive thinking is important for all of us to adopt in order to live healthier more well-balanced mental lives.
But let’s not kid ourselves here. In order to assume positive intent, we are minimizing the feelings of others while protecting those with bullying tendencies. There’s nothing positive about that.