I frequently hear the saying that perception is reality. In the workplace (and at home) perceptions that aren’t managed become destructive. The result of this is a mess that become a reality that was never intended.
Human Resource professionals are approached by colleagues, friends and family for advice pertaining to personal conflict at work. The number one question they get is I’m having trouble communicating with my boss/coworker, what should I do?
Most people are conflicted by direct feedback, giving or receiving. We often do not know how we are perceived. The lack of awareness keeps us from leveraging our strengths and identify areas for improvement. Perceptions can be managed by asking the right questions and being open to receiving feedback, positive or negative. IN order for feedback to be constructive it needs to be specific an non=threatening.
Actively managing perceptions comes down to communication with your manager, your team, your coworker, your spouse, your friend, etc. If you are doing your job and doing it well, high performance can be the simplest way to manage perception. Be mindful of where you spend your time and your money, this is often where you are most diligently managing perceptions.
A quick example is if you’re seen continually at your desk, people won’t think that you’re taking extra breaks and have work to do. If you are always walking about the office and never at your desk, people will see you as not having much work to do.
Here is some simple advice to keep your reputation in the green –
- Avoid taking and making personal phone calls at work. If you need to do this do it at lunch or in a private room – and keep it short. This applies to texting at your desk also. If you have a major crisis in your personal life tell your manager that you have something important to deal with and that you will cause minimal disruption. Keep the details to yourself, it is your personal life, keep it personal.
- Admit when you are wrong or don’t know something. There is nothing worse than the person who knows they are wrong or unsure if they are right, realize it and continue to be short and crass trying to hold on and prove they are right. You start to sound like a child having a temper tantrum.
- When it comes to personality clashes take the person aside, maybe coffee or lunch, and find out what the problem actually is. Most people are very receptive to fixing a problem at work. Ask things like what can I do to make this situation better and what are your expectations.
- Avoid going on the defense when dealing with feedback. This is hard, but give the person who came to you directly the respect of listening and understanding their position/perception of you. Ultimately this response will better you as a professional.
- Show up to work on time and put in a full day’s work. If you have personal stuff come up, make sure you are still meeting goals and expectations.
Take some time each week and ask how am I being perceived? Am I doing the best job that I can?
What will separate you from others? Is your desire to improve and avoid the rumor mill… everyone has the ability to change a perception.