Dispelling the “Ass_u_me” Myth…

I am fairly confident that many (if not all) have at one point in their life, heard that to “Assume”, makes an “Ass” out of “You” and “Me” — Ass_u_me.  In some instances, I am certain that the analogy is true, and perhaps applicable?  Assumptions are usually formed as a bi-product of rumors, tribal knowledge, and/or urban legends, passed along from person to person through the gossip network.  Further, assumptions are predominately negative in nature, and are the basis from which perceptions are formed.  Herein lies the danger; unlike criminal law, where one is “presumed innocent until proven guilty“, assumptions and perceptions are supposed a reality (guilty), until dispelled or proven otherwise (innocent).  When one forms a perception of another, based on assumptions, the stage is then set for the assumer to end up with egg on his/her face, hence the “Ass_u_me”.

True leaders possess situational awareness, and are cognizant of avoiding the trappings of assuming, but instead, form their assessments of others through face-to-face interaction, rather than by hearsay.  Leaders who value the people in their charge, develop a form of built-in “Ass_u_me” avoidance system, which alerts them to the potential organizational catastrophes, and the ensuing casualties, which are eminent in the aftermath of assumptions having been made.

Having presented the trappings and dangers of assuming, it needs stated that not all assumptions are “negative” in nature, and in fact, some are healthy and beneficial to an organization.  I posit that those seeking to further develop their leadership presence, and fine tune their “Ass_u_me” avoidance system, do so by reviewing (adopting) the following list of assumptions from Abraham H. Maslow:

The following list contains 37 assumptions (36 plus assumption 6a), which underlie eupsychian management policy.  According to Maslow (1965), these “assumptions” are necessary preconditions for successful leadership “and” followership within organizations (Maslow, 1965, p. 17-33).  The list contains the main points of each assumption; additional commentary for each assumption can be viewed in Maslow’s Eupsychian Management: A Journal, which was re-published under the title: Maslow on Management.

  1. Assume everyone is to be trusted.
  2. Assume everyone is to be informed as completely as possible of as many facts and truths as possible…
  3. Assume in all your people the impulse to achieve…
  4. Assume that there is no dominance–subordination hierarchy in the jungle sense or authoritarian sense…
  5. Assume that everyone will have the same ultimate managerial objectives and will identify with them no matter where they are in the organization or in the hierarchy.
  6. Eupsychian economics must assume good will among all the members of the organization rather than rivalry or jealousy.  (6a).  Synergy is also assumed.
  7. Assume that the individuals involved are healthy enough.
  8. Assume that the organization is healthy enough…
  9. Assume the “ability to admire”…
  10. We must assume that the people in eupsychian plants are not fixated at the safety-need level.
  11. Assume an active trend to self-actualization…
  12. Assume that everyone can enjoy good teamwork, friendship, good group spirit, good group homonomy, good belongingness, and group love.
  13. Assume hostility to be primarily reactive rather than character-based…
  14. Assume that people can take it…
  15. Eupsychian management assumes that people are improvable.
  16. Assume that everyone prefers to feel important, needed, useful, successful, proud, respected, rather than unimportant, interchangeable anonymous, wasted, unused, expendable, disrespected.
  17. That everyone prefers or perhaps even needs to love his boss (rather than to hate him), and that everyone prefers to respect his boss (rather than to disrespect him)…
  18. Assume that everyone dislikes fearing anyone (more than he likes fearing anyone), but that he prefers fearing the boss to despising the boss.
  19. Eupsychian management assumes everyone prefers to be a prime mover rather than a passive helper…
  20. Assume a tendency to improve things, to straighten the crooked picture on the wall, to clean up the dirty mess, to put things right, make things better, to do things better.
  21. Assume that growth occurs through delight and not through boredom.
  22. Assume preference for being a whole person and not a part, not a thing or an implement, or tool, or “hand”…
  23. Assume the preference for working rather than being idle.
  24. All human beings, not only eupsychian ones, prefer meaningful work to meaningless work.
  25. Assume the preference for personhood, uniqueness as a person, identity (in contrast to being anonymous or interchangeable).
  26. We must make the assumption that the person is courageous enough for eupsychian processes.
  27. We must make the specific assumptions of nonpsychopathy…
  28. We must assume the wisdom and the efficacy of self-choice.
  29. We must assume that everyone likes to be justly and fairly appreciated, preferably in public.
  30. We must assume the defense and growth dialectic for all these positive trends that we have already listed above.
  31. Assume that everyone but especially the more developed persons prefer responsibility to dependency and passivity most of the time.
  32. The general assumption is that people will get more pleasure out of loving than they will out of hating…
  33. Assume that fairly well-developed people would rather create than destroy.
  34. Assume that fairly well-developed people would rather be interested than be bored.
  35. We must ultimately assume at the highest theoretical levels of eupsychian theory, a preference or a tendency to identify with more and more of the world, moving toward the ultimate of mysticism, a fusion with the world, or peak experience, cosmic consciousness, etc.
  36. Finally we shall have to work out the assumption of the metamotives and the metapathologies… (Maslow, 1965, pp. 17-33).

In short, there are some positive assumptions, as pointed out by Maslow in the list of Eupsychian assumptions.  The principles presented are not unfamiliar to those who espouse “true” leadership.  However, for those who wear the title of “leader”, but espouse “manager” behaviors when interacting with humans, these principle will be unfamiliar and perhaps painful to adopt, but be promised this… when these principles (assumptions) are put into practice daily, there will be no need for employee oversight by managment within an organization — the people will take care of the business and WOW our customers, just move out of the way and provide them with resources.

For additional information on Eupsychian Principles of leadership, may I suggest reading the following:

Martin, B. G. (2011). Toward Gemeinschaftsgefühl: Exploring subordinate and manager perceptions of trust and perceptions regarding behavioral change potential (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (PQDT) database. (UMI No. 3486058)

Maslow, A. H. (1965). Eupsychian management: A journal. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin, Inc. and The Dorsey Press.

Maslow, A. H., Stephens, D. C., & Heil, G. (1998). Maslow on management. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  I welcome your insight, so please post your comments, and thanks for reading.

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