Monday, September 08, 2008


Beware so long as you live, of judging people by appearances. - La Fontaine

It is hard  not to judge others. Ask yourself - if you are quick to judge others, if you also like to judged equally fast? Don't you think people should give you more time or they should get to know you better before they judge you. Judging others properly has to start somewhere. Why not you start it with yourself?

It is sad that even after knowing so much about psychology, organization behavior, human behavior etc., we still tend to judge people too soon. This is despite making the same mistake over and over again. People we judge to be good end up disappointing us and people who manage to survive our poor judgment many times deliver fantastic results.

It is said that people make first and probably last (ing) impression of somebody within 30 seconds. How ridiculous? What can you really know about someone in 30 seconds? May be after you have fine tuned your instincts in judging people, you may be able to do that. Do we know how much experience we will need to get to that level of accuracy so that we can judge someone so quickly and correctly? Possibly not in this life. Some people are generally good readers of human character. They are a  minority. Majority of us are simply poor judges of people.

Best managers I have known and worked for are those who have been slow to judge people. In most cases, they have been able to judge people well because they start off with a very positive note. You get a new person to your team. Why not start off with a trust that the person is a competent and good professional? Tell him or her  that and chances are extremely good that they live up to or exceed your expectations. On the contrary, if you treat that  person without much warmth just because you judged him or her to be not good, chances are they will live up to that expectation as  well. People normally deliver what you expect out of them.

Sometimes we get infatuated with someone after they deliver some good results for us. Then they suddenly stop living up to our expectations. That's the time to go back and see if the problem is ad hoc or systemic. Once you know someone's capacity, it is safer to assume that the person will deliver at say 75% of his peak capacity. You better be happy with that. There is hardly anyone who can crank out at their best all the time. They will have their own ups and downs and their overall performance comes close to 75% of their capacity. This is not something I am preaching. Learnt it from a very seasoned manager who told me to use this during interview. Everyone is fired up and certainly wants to do his best at the interview. If we assume the energy level they bring to the interview is the energy level they can bring to work day in and day out, you will be wrong and disappointed. So, cut people some slack.

So, what do you use to judge people so quickly? Their external appearance? Of course, people who are easy on eyes are lucky in a way that they normally get a favorable judgment. Then if they can speak well also, they almost have you bagged. On top of it, if they also know how to please you or agree with you, that's the end of your judgment. Judgment passed - great guy or gal. 30 seconds flat.  Fast forward 6 months and then see how right or wrong you were

If you have to judge someone so quickly, it is better err on the side of safety and judge everyone favorably. Then  you pass the onus to the other person to live up to your judgment which is favorable. It is for them to prove you wrong. If they are really good, they will be very positively impressed by your judgment and encouragement and exceed your expectations. Even if they are not that good, chances are they sense your trust and live up to your expectations. If they are not good at all, sooner or later you will see it for yourself and at that time you can change your judgment without much problem as you would have better data to make such a judgment.

They say ' don't judge the book by its cover.' It applies to people as well. At least skim through the book before judging. If people do not exercise caution, then they will be inflicting pain on themselves as in most of our lives we can alone hardly accomplish anything. It is with the people we surround ourselves with that we are able to achieve anything. So, allow others to cling to you by deferring judgment as late as possible. Let the other person have the complete benefit of your unconditional trust to begin with. After that, it is for him to keep it or lose it.


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