Cause and Effect


My wife does our laundry. Recently she’s been frustrated that my t-shirts came out of the dryer inside out.

She’s said on more than one occasion, “I need you to put your t-shirts in the laundry right-side out. Would you please do that?”

“I do put them in right-side out,” I’d reply. “Really. I’m very intentional about doing that.”

“Then why do they come of the dryer out inside out?” she’d ask.

In the past, I never thought about how I tossed my dirty shirts in the laundry hamper. And, these past six months, I’ve been extremely careful to do exactly as my wife had asked: I ensured my shirts were right-side out.

My wife had her truth. I had mine. How could we resolve this issue?

This past week, I made a suggestion. I said to her, “Have you noticed if the shirts were inside-out in the dirty clothes hamper?”

“No, I’ve never checked,” she admitted.

I said, “How’s about this round you check the dirty shirts to see if they’re right-side out? I’ll help!”

She said, “That’s a good idea. I don’t need help – I’ve got it.”

Today she came in and showed me one of my t-shirts, fresh out of the dryer. It was inside out. She said, “All your shirts went into the washer right-side out. By the time they got out of the dryer, they’d inverted themselves!”

She apologized for blaming me for not doing what she’d asked.  “No worries,” I replied, adding “That is a bit weird. I wonder if the washer or dryer turns them inside out.”

Now, I don’t mean to infer that I listen to everything my wife says to me or that I do everything she asks me to do. I’m a normal, moronic husband. This time, though, I really tried. It wasn’t my fault – this time.

How often do you experience “competing” truths in your work environment? I see it happen all the time.

Disagreements about what the “real truth” is can evolve into major conflicts pretty quickly if they’re not resolved in a way that honors everyone’s truth.

Just like with the inside-out t-shirts, something in your organization is causing an undesirable result. In many cases, it’s not anyone’s fault – no one is intentionally causing the issue.

(If someone is intentionally causing the issue or is not honest about what’s happening, that’s a different problem entirely.)

Now things aren’t working as desired. Rather than blaming people, a better approach is to dig in and learn the process more deeply – and discover the root cause of the issue.

Your truth may be about the first part of the process (the t-shirts in the laundry hamper right-side out). My truth may be about the last part of the process (the t-shirts coming out of the dryer inside-out).

We’re both right, yet we still must resolve an undesirable outcome.

Don’t blame. Dig in. Examine the process and find the root cause. Address it if possible – without harming relationships.

If you can’t fix the issue, you at least now understand it. You might have to spend a little extra time with the t-shirts before you fold them, but people will feel heard and honored.

What do you think? What “competing truths” get in the way of performance and relationships in your work environment? How are those truths addressed in your work teams? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

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  • I think many factors impede truth – but here are two of the most basic. Listening only enough to be able to state your own opinion without really listening to see if an opposing opinion has merit. Massaging the data to make it heavily weighted to support your opinion. I’ve seen both at work to the detriment of projects that could have had better outcomes.

    • Totally agree! And – I’ve seen those used on the home front more than once!



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