I don't recall when or where I first heard the phrase "don't attribute to malice what is more easily attributed to stupidity," but it is a rule I try to live by. I later learned that this phrase is called Hanlon's Razor and it is a variant of Occam's razor. There are many other variants including the KISS principle. I was reminded of it again this week when an article in Fast Company popped up about "egocentric bias". The gist of the article is that our brain is wired in a way that makes us feel like we are doing more work than our colleagues, even though that is rarely the case.
I see this egocentric bias all the time when coaching or playing hockey. Every time you are trying to make a good hockey play but in doing so bump someone off the puck or get a stick into their hands it's an honest mistake, but every time someone else does the same thing it's clearly because they are a goon out to hurt people. Of course, the other team thinks the same way.
In the workplace this egocentric bias prompts us to ignore the hardships of others, but we obviously notice our own. We are quick to discount the efforts of others and if each individual was asked what percentage of a project they were personally responsible for completing the sum would be well over 100%.
I like to replace the word "stupidity" in the original version of Hanlon's razor with "ignorance" or even "a mistake" because it is often misconstrued that you are calling someone else dumb. As far as egocentric bias goes, it's not that others are stupid or even necessarily making mistakes. It could just be that we are so self-focused we consider their effort lesser than our own. Maybe it should be further refined to "Do not attribute to laziness what is more easily attributed to your own egocentric bias preventing you from appreciating another persons efforts."
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