Reining In Your Judgment

judgment: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought; the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought; the act of judging something or someone; the ability to make good decisions about what should be done 

All of us spend time and effort developing our ability to judge people and situations in a manner that serves us. Sometimes, however, judgment can impede us. It is important to have the discernment to identify the nature of our judgment. Is it fair or biased? Different situations call for different types of judgment. Some require fair and impartial judgment and some require judgment that serves our best interests.

We are emotional creatures and will always have our own ways of looking at things. Too often, however, when there is a need for stepping out of our biases, we do not. We let our emotional, and not always rational, thoughts influence our judgment. Time and effort are well spent in developing the ability to discern what forms the basis of our judgment. There are cases when our personal biases may serve us well. For example, when we are trying to strategize within the maze of office politics or to decide what is best for us. There are cases when impartial and fair judgment is called for. For example, when disciplining a team member or making a decision that will impact our team’s well being.

Take a look at your use of judgment. Are you discerning what is called for in each situation where you exercise it? Do you use your judgment effectively and exercise its power well?

photo: ddpavumba,


My Manager Journey From Needing Approval To Fairness

At one point in my career, I received a promotion to a new position that was a big leap and wonderful opportunity for me. I would be managing 45 people in a division that brought three previously separate offices together as one. It was a high profile division, where my decisions would be scrutinized and my actions as a manager would have wider, and more public, impact than in any position I held before.

In my previous managerial positions, one thing that was a bit of an Achilles heel for me was that I brought a need for the approval of others into my work. The roots of this need went back to my childhood, but had no place in my work. This manifested in my not always providing the leadership those who worked for me deserved and in my avoiding conflict, sometimes to the detriment of getting things done.

As I accepted this new position, I knew my need for approval had to go. I was on a bigger stage, would be making difficult decisions and had to perform. What would replace my need for approval? I did not want to be what we now call a bully boss. I wanted to treat people with the respect and dignity they deserve. I settled on fairness – I would be very clear in my expectations, would explain decisions that affected the team, would handle controversy or unpopular decisions with as much fairness as possible and would do my very best to respect everyone who worked with me.

It worked. My need for others’ approval was replaced with a focus on leadership, collaboration and managing with fairness. The biggest difference for me was that my neediness was gone. It was very freeing. I accepted my role as a manager as a positive one and thrived.


photo:  Stuart Miles,

Fair Is Not Equal When Managing

Some see fairness as equal treatment of all members of their team. Equal is often seen as “same”. I recently attended a training class, given by Mockingbird Education that focused on high risk learners. The trainer, Tamara Thompson, made a statement that fair is not equal. She said that, with high risk learners, individual circumstances are key factors in their ability and openness to learning. One student may say to a teacher,   “ that’s not fair, you didn’t make the others do what I had to do” and there may be very good reasons why that is so.

Effective management is not about uniformity. It is one-on-one. That’s a high skill: to treat all team members as individuals, with differing skill sets and circumstances, and still be fair. Fairness then becomes subjective, pertaining to the characteristics of particular situations and people. If fairness becomes subjective, your values as a manager rise in importance and become your guide.