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  • Kick Ass Zombie Hunter

How We Judge Others – Often Wrongly

Unbalanced scale with a sad and happy face.

Paul’s late to the meeting because he doesn’t respect people’s time. Kristin missed an important step on a client process because she lacks attention to detail. Morgan is disinterested and disengaged after they hardly spoke during your most recent one-on-one with them.

Yet, Paul was late because he received a last-minute phone call from his son’s school asking him to arrange a pickup because he was sick. Kristin – a relatively new employee – was never trained on the unwritten process. Morgan’s dog died on the weekend.

The fundamental attribution error strikes again. This is when we attribute other people’s actions to their character or personality.

We do this all the time, and not just at work. That person who cut you off in traffic the other day? They’re a terrible driver.

However, there’s always been a good reason why you’re late, made a mistake, or had a bad day. Even, when you cut someone off.

That’s the other part of the fundamental attribution error. While we attribute other people’s actions to their character or personality, we attribute our own behaviour to external factors outside our control.

These quick judgements can have lasting impacts. How we see others influences how we act and behave around them. We give Paul the cold shoulder during the meeting. We mark Kristin down on her next performance review. We give less opportunities for development to Morgan.

Avoid the fundamental attribution error by giving people the benefit of the doubt more often, asking open-ended questions and listening to their answers, and looking for the environmental and situational factors.

At the very least, try remembering the last time you did the same thing they did.



Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Can you think of an instance when you judged someone’s character or personality when they did something negative?

  2. How might this have impacted your relationship or work experience with them?

  3. What strategies can you put in place as an individual or team to combat the fundamental attribution error?


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