The Danger of Judging Others

Posted on January 31, 2015.

In a recent WSJ op-ed piece, Rorke Denver, a Navy Seal Commander, wrote an interesting piece about Chris Kyle, the American Sniper.  Mr. Denver, while not agreeing with his statement, defended Michael Moore’s first amendment right to say what he said.

The problem I have with the conversation that’s going on about Chris Kyle is how much judging is taking place about a person that the most vocal people have never met.  I read American Sniper and feel that no one can possibly know what it was like to walk in the shoes of Chris Kyle. So how does all this relate to what may be going on in corporate America? We make judgments all the time and too often, they end up being very dangerous. For instance:

·      When you’re hiring someone, do you:

o   Make a first impression based on looks, including height and weight?

o   Make a judgment based on how much you have in common?

o   Assume someone’s intellect based on their accent?

·      Have you ever overlooked someone for a promotion because they may have small children at home?

·      Have you assumed someone couldn’t handle a job based on a disability?

·      Have you discounted someone else’s idea because you don’t like them?

·      Do you tune someone out because they have tattoos?

·      Have you failed to see someone’s potential because you’ve stereotyped them based on your initial opinion or  based on a job they’ve held in the past?

This last one hits home to me.  More than once, I was overlooked for a promotion because of people’s perceptions, which were based on jobs I had historically.  No one took the time to update that perception based on my more recent successes. 

I have a friend who was consistently held back because he was perceived as being “too nice” or “too young”.  It was only when he started working with people that had no history with him that he is finally living up to his full potential.  These kind of narrow, unwavering perceptions are nothing more than judgments.

The reality is that if you’re really honest with yourself, you make judgments about other people and situations every day. It becomes very dangerous when you express those judgments publicly, like Michael Moore, or you bring them into the office.

I think my favorite quote about judging is from Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, who said, “Thinking is difficult that’s why most people judge”.