Assuming Positive Intent

He always does that!


She never checks her work!


As a manager, do you sometimes have too many balls in the air and not enough time to address issues with employees? It’s only natural that we sometimes have these moments. Depending on our position, we have many more fires to put out, and it seems easier to blame the employee rather than looking deeper into the causes.


By looking deeper, I mean assuming positive intent.


It’s a popular research topic, and it seems that the best leaders assume positive intent. So, what goes into assuming positive intent?


  1. Asking questions – Having a short conversation with the employee can do wonders. “I saw you doing that, and I have a hard time understanding why. I know you have a well thought out reason/plan. Can you take me through that?”
  2. Listening – This is a skill that needs to be honed over time. It’s sometimes not the words, but it’s the tone, eye contact (from both parties), and confirming your understanding of the other. “If I heard you correctly, you said…” It’s also in asking clarifying questions to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. “I understand you’ve been busy this last week. What obstacles specifically did you face?”


After trying to understand their point of view with good listening skills, the ideal boss would look for ways to either help remove some obstacles for the employee or whatever seems to be needed (additional training, access to resources, etc.)


However, someone who does not assume positive intent will not have their listening ears open to try to understand the obstacles and issues that the employee had.


As a manager, leader, coach, and mentor, these are the opportunities for you to make a difference in that employee’s productivity and engagement. Don’t pass on these moments. Assume positive intent!

think positive


Author: Joe Croarkin

Husband, father of three, brother of four

5 thoughts on “Assuming Positive Intent”

  1. You always are a very encouraging leader. So thanks for always taking time to better others.
    I will definitely keep those 2 skills in mind during my next conversation at work.
    I like to think that they can only be as good as their leaders are.. Of course that’s not always true but if we want greatness then we have to provide those opportunities. Right?!


    1. Hi Kim,

      Thanks for the kind words, and thank you for being the first to comment on my blog!

      We certainly have an obligation to give everyone an opportunity to develop. Because we don’t know what kind of filter people use to see the world, and because our filter sometimes covers up the truth from us, it’s best to be inquisitive and discover where the process breaks down.

      Good luck with those conversations, and you can always feel free to reach out to me. =)


  2. Well written Joe and also very versatile. Applicable even in my Mr. mom situation with children as opposed to employees.

    It is my opinion that your subordinates are lucky to have such an insightful team leader.


    1. Thanks, Chris. I’m glad you found it helpful. We know our kids so well, that sometimes we think we know exactly what they were thinking, and they can still surprise us if they let us know their real thoughts.


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