Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Investigate Before Jumping To Conclusions

A real knee jerk reaction!

One extreme in supervision:  to ignore or make excuses for inappropriate behavior or poor or problematic work performance.  The other extreme:  to jump to conclusions and react as though an employee did something wrong or nothing wrong, even before checking into the situation. That’s how supervisors lose their credibility and become resented or ridiculed by employees. It’s also how organizations lose the respect of clients and  customers and how relationships are damaged.

There is nearly always time to fully investigate something that seems to be a problem or when you’ve heard a rumor or think you know for sure what happened.  This also applies to us when we hear organizational rumors or if we hear that someone said someone said something about us, or when we make the assumption that something couldn’t possibly be true.

You will be especially tempted to jump to take action if you work around someone who tends to encourage that response.  Instead, just keep saying, “Let me find out all the details before I decide what to do.”

I was reminded of this when I taught a class for sergeants and supervisors last week and I mentioned something a former Denver Chief of Police, Aristedes (Ari) Zavaras told me when I was put in charge of our Internal Affairs Unit. He was talking to me especially about the internal complaints the IAB conducted. He said,

“Sometimes you’ll hear something that sounds like someone committed an axe murder.  Just make sure it’s investigated correctly. You’ll probably find out someone stepped on an ant hill. But, sometimes you’ll hear about something that seems like someone stepped on an ant hill. Make sure it’s investigated correctly because there might be a bloody axe hidden somewhere.”

Good advice for every setting!

Even if it seems obvious what happened because there were witnesses or you were standing right there or you know for sure, or someone you trusts knows for sure–talk to everyone involved and get their perspectives. Talk to the person directly involved and see that person’s viewpoint. Find out the facts, and take your emotion, ego–and knee–out of it. Unless it is an emergency, slow yourself down a bit. Not so much that you don’t seem interested or that you let it slide. Enough that you show your willingness to investigate before either excusing or accusing.

I can almost guarantee you will have plenty of reasons over time to be glad you showed restraint and kept your knee under control.

March 17th, 2009 Posted by | Supervision and Management | 5 comments


  1. What great advice! I have made an idiot of myself several times when I acted too fast on a situation. Good post! Mike

    Comment by Mike | March 19, 2009

  2. Proverbs 18:15 says,
    The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.

    The idea in that verse is that knowledge needs to be sought and acquired, rather than assumed.

    Comment by Don R. | March 19, 2009

  3. Tina says:
    Mike, me too!

    Don, I notice that verse refers to the heart and the ears-our feelings and our logic. Thank you for that perspective!

    Comment by TLR | March 19, 2009

  4. So that’s how a knee jerk reaction works? I feel kind of dumb because I didn’t know that about the nerve path. I guess you really can learn something new every day. P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | March 23, 2009

  5. Dear Ms. Rowe,
    I’m reading in your site for the first time and enjoying it very much. I really like your style of writing. Thanks! Anthony R.

    Comment by Anthony Rojas | April 16, 2009

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