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Are they malicious? Or just human?

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Do you ever feel like some people you work with must go out of their way to be painful? I do.

(But, it’s almost never true)

Hanlon’s razor is a rule of thumb that guides us to “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Hanlon’s razor

A gentler, fleshed out (and far less catchy!) interpretation of this for the workplace might say… never assume bad intentions for any action (or inaction) that could be explained by inability, insecurity or another human limitation.

Does that mean we should excuse bad behaviour?

Not at all. But it should guide us to lead an accountability conversation with curiosity, focussing on the facts (e.g. they didn’t get their work done on time), not our stories (e.g. because they’re lazy).

Often, we’ll find that the reasons behind the problematic behaviour more benign (e.g. they forgot, because they have an inadequate personal organisation system) than we’d imagined.

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