Why giving the benefit of the doubt is so important at work
A letter from editorial director Lisa Smosarski.

So many of the problems we encounter at work are about poor communication, and more specifically around the assumptions we make.

“They should know how to do that by now.”
“I expected them to be more thorough.”
“They keep on making the same mistakes.”
“They clearly weren’t listening.”

But how often do we turn the tables and force ourselves to ask the question: “Did I really make that clear?” It’s unlikely any of us know how to do something without explicitly being told, which is why, when faced with a colleague who’s struggling, I encourage everyone to give the benefit of the doubt, and to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Does your colleague know how to do that task? Do they have the required skills or know how you need it delivered?
  • Have you told them clearly in a way that they can process? Is their way of processing or understanding information the same as yours? Is a conversation, email or a chance to reflect the best way for them, rather than you?
  • Are they aware they are making the same mistakes?

Only by removing assumption and offering the benefit of the doubt – rather than disappointment, criticism or an old-school telling off – can you really get to the heart of meaningful change that will help your colleagues and ensure you’re achieving the best results too.

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Work smarter: make time for a creative warmup
Acting digital content director Ellen Scott shares insightful hacks to make work that little bit easier.    

The next time you’re tasked with generating a great idea or are about to head into a brainstorming meeting, pause. Rather than diving straight in and hoping inspiration will strike, make time for some strategic preamble. Or, in other words: carve out space for a warmup.

Like our muscles, our minds need a warmup before they can launch straight into an activity. That’s backed by science, which suggests that creativity can’t be rushed, especially at work.

How can we use this knowledge? By consciously building warmup time into any creative or idea-generating task. At the start of a meeting, consider spending five minutes doing a brain dump or a quick puzzle with your team. The warmup doesn’t need to be related to the task at hand; doing any form of creative warmup will do the trick. And on an individual level, give yourself permission to do some doodling or think creatively about something non-work-related when you need to make something new for your job. The more opportunities you give your mind to flex, the better the results will be.  

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