In our January 2022 blog, we explained the importance of being factual in business. I would like to add a little disclaimer in addition to the January 2022 blog ‘Emotions at the workplace’. Sometimes you can take all the proper measurements and provide ample facts pushing for improvements, but that does not always guarantee change. Many factors could play along with making any improvements or innovations. For example, does your proposal to change fit in the mission and vision of the organization? Does the organization have the proper resources or tools to make the changes? Can they financially afford it? Are you proposing your idea for improvements to the right resources or individuals internally? Is it fair, applicable, and justified for all employees? Don’t forget that some organizations will be hesitant to support or make a statement that would be considered doubtful in law and politics. Just to raise awareness that it is not always as straightforward as it seems but to be reminded that an organization is not always open, willing, capable, or able to make the changes for improvements you would like to achieve.
Moving on to the actual subject ‘Facts vs Opinions’ we start first with the definition and explanation. We interpret facts (see article) by value judgments, and is objective information that you can measure and is verifiable. An opinion (see article) is linked to emotion or thought and is for each of us different and interchangeable, so still open to change. When an opinion becomes dogmatic, incontrovertibly true, not open for discussion or debate, it becomes a belief. A fact is objective and an opinion subjective (see article). Even as it seems obvious and simple when defining the difference, many have difficulties in distinguishing the fact from an opinion. Personally, I don’t find it always easy either, as there are many grey areas to which something can be defined as a fact and an opinion depending on the perspective. See an example down below.
Question: Colleague A is complaining about the inappropriate dress code of colleague B. Is the inappropriate dress code of colleague B a fact or an opinion?
Description: Company ABC is an international company that has offices in 32 countries and counting 12000 employees all over the world. Company ABC location northwest—EU is following the global policy to which company clothing has been described as an option and not as mandatory. Further, no other request for specific clothing or dress code has been mentioned. The headquarters of Company ABC is based in Sydney, Australia. Company ABC follows a global policy and procedure regulations set up by the headquarters. The country legislations are leading for each location.
It is a very hot summer day at 38 degrees in Amsterdam, where one of Company ABC’s locations is based. The weather forecast predicts a heatwave for the next 5 days and therefore Colleague B decides to go to work in a spaghetti-top and short skirt. In the upcoming days, the outfits are considered just as revealing to Colleague A. Colleague A insists that Business etiquette is of high value and should not be put aside regardless of any circumstances. Several other colleagues agree with Colleague A.
Answer: From the perspective of Colleague A the inappropriate dress code is a fact when considering the ‘unwritten rules’ (see article) of Business etiquette of how people think and behave differing per culture or country. From the perspective of the Company ABC global policies and procedures, the statement of Colleague A is considered an opinion because there are no specific rules of dress code defining what is allowed and what is not. Nor does it state in any articles in Dutch law how employees should dress at the workplace. Regardless of the shared vision of the other colleagues of Colleague A does not make it a fact. What we consider inappropriate is for each of us differently depending on our upbringing, background, and culture. Would the location be based in Dubai then the law would be ruling the dress code nationally therefore also at the workplace and would it become a fact. The same would be in case the global company policy and regulations would be amended of Company ABC specifying a detailed dress code allowed. Furthermore, it is quite debatable whether the opinion of Colleague A is an opinion or a belief but based on the information given it is for now inconclusive.
Signed, Critical Thinking