So, why do we automatically blame our coworkers? Chalk it up to psychology and organizational politics, which cause us to oversimplify and to draw incorrect or incomplete conclusions.
There’s a good reason why we’re inclined to jump to conclusions based on limited information. Most of us are, by nature, “cognitive misers,” a term coined by social psychologists Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor to describe how people have a tendency to preserve cognitive resources and allocate them only to high-priority matters. And the limited supply of cognitive resources we all have is spread ever-thinner as demands on our time and attention increase.
Conflict happens everywhere, including in the workplace. When it does, it’s tempting to blame it on personalities. But more often than not, the real underlying cause of workplace strife is the situation itself, rather than the people involved.
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