Life is much simpler when you can view it in black and white. Your political party is good, the other is evil. The referee in your soccer match is blind. The war hero on TV is a saint. Your co-worker is a jerk.

Viewing other people this way fits an easy narrative. You want the people you like to be faultless, and the people you don't like to have no redeeming qualities.

In the workplace, it is tempting to treat your co-workers with the same lens. You have the smart funny co-workers, and the stupid jerks. You ignore the mistakes from your favorite co-workers, brushing off errors as one time random events. You obsess over the faults of the co-workers you don't like, frustrated that they've continued to demonstrate their incompetence.

The Situation Matters

At annual review time, another Director asks for a meeting.

Director Wendy - "I'm looking to promote Bob sometime soon. Bob transferred to my group from your team last year. I wanted to let you know, so you're not surprised about Bob's promotion.

Me - "That's surprising. If you remember when he transferred, he was doing pretty poorly on our team. So he's turned things around?"

Director Wendy - "Oh, he's been fantastic. You mentioned that he had trouble completing tasks, but we haven't seen it at all. He's been the most productive member of the team."

I've repeatedly seen struggling employees swap teams and begin to excel. I've also seen excellent employees suddenly run into performance problems when they move teams.

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