How We “See” Things
We acknowledge the importance of perception in everyday sayings. “I see…”, “I’ve seen the light”, “It’s as if a veil has been lifted”, “I’ve changed my view”: none of these sayings are about sight. Each refers to perception.
Perception Depends On Interpretation
Perception depends on your interpretation of what you see. It doesn’t matter whether your interpretation is accurate or not. It doesn’t matter how biased you are. You will interpret what you see according to your experience and opinions. That can cause difficulties in managing employee performance.
Perception And Employees
Let’s say you believe that a particular employee or group of employees is lazy, uncommitted and incompetent. This will have a major influence how you behave towards that employee or group. The reverse is equally true. If your perception’s based on fact, there’s no problem. But if it’s based on hearsay, others’ opinions or simply insufficient information, you could easily make serious errors of judgement.
Perception And Customers
Ever “tear you hair out” about a major prospect who continues to trade with a competitor? You have demonstrated beyond question that your product and service is superior to that of your competitor in every conceivable way. It’s even 25% cheaper. The prospect refuses to budge. That’s perception in action. For whatever reason, that customer perceives that dealing with your competitor will satisfy his or her needs more than dealing with you.
Perception Is Opinion Based
Frequently, how we see a person or situation reflects our emotions. You may feel that you’ve been poorly treated by, say, a human resources consultant. You become suspicious of all human resources consultants. And it’ll take much good treatment by other human resources consultants to change your mind. It doesn’t matter that your opinion is ill considered or even absolutely wrong. As a mentor of mine used to say years ago, “the opinions that people hold are facts to them”.
Employees’ Perception Of Each Other
Employees have perceptions of each other. And groups of employees have perceptions of other groups. “Those finance people only care about cutting costs,” say the sales staff. “Those salespeople always rort their expenses,” say the finance staff. On and on it goes. You don’t need me to provide examples.
Employee’s Perception Of Managers
Make no mistake. Every employee sees you, the manager differently. Positive, negative, accurate, inaccurate, emotional or rational: each employee “sees” you in his or her own way. This may be based on one or a number of events: on a brief exchange or long experience. But they exist. And the way you “see” your employees is equally influential.
Perception Is Inevitable
Whether it takes an hour to create or is a year in the making, perception is inevitable. You – and everyone else – will perceive things in a certain way. This even applies to people and situations you know almost nothing about and have little or no experience of. If you don’t believe me, just ask an economist! If you’re still not convinced, listen to a politician.
The Only Reality
The Dean of one of our leading management schools used to say “perception is the only reality”. That may be rather extreme. But it does remind us of the dangers of subjectivity. As managers we may see ourselves as objective and impartial. But our objectivity and impartiality may be based on some erratic perceptions.
Perception is real. It’s normal. It’s part of our response to normal events and human interactions of business. Have a long hard look at whether your perceptions are interfering with your business judgement.